Unless you’ve been hiding under the proverbial rock in recent weeks, you’re probably aware of the growing concerns in the United States and around the world concerning the coronavirus outbreak.
As springtime begins, many effects are being felt in this country and abroad as the virus crisis deepens. And while much is still unknown about the disease, how widespread it will become, or what the societal problems it causes might eventually be, outdoors enthusiasts are beginning to take note. How might all of this affect their hunting and fishing pastimes in 2020.
For starters, what exactly is coronavirus, or COVID-19 as it is officially known?
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the virus “…is a respiratory illness that can spread from person to person. The virus that causes COVID-19 is a novel coronavirus that was first identified during an investigation into an outbreak in Wuhan, China.”
As the virus outbreak gathered steam early this year, nearly 100 countries are now reporting positive cases of coronavirus infection. As of this writing in early March, worldwide cases have topped the 110,000 mark with more than 3,800 deaths reported.
As many know, mainland China has been particularly hard-hit with 80,000+ cases and 3,000+ deaths according to various news reports.
Iran, Italy, and South Korea are all current COVID-19 hotspots that have growing numbers of positive cases and deaths being reported because of the coronavirus spread. Spain and Germany are seeing its numbers increase, as is the United States. The state of Washington has been particularly hard hit with positive cases and some deaths.
How is the outbreak affecting travel? The answer is considerably, as flights are cancelled or postponed and wary travelers get used to such words as quarantine, travel restrictions, and health advisories from such organizations as the CDC and WHO (World Health Organization).
As of this writing, China, Iran, Italy and South Korea all have some form of Level 3 Travel Health Notices from the CDC where travel is restricted or discouraged. With Japan sitting at Level 2, Hong Kong sitting at Level 1, Italy shutting off one of its major geographical regions, and the U.S. State Department advising Americans to avoid travel on cruise ships for now, it’s clear that travel will be greatly affected in 2020.
Outdoors enthusiasts won’t be immune from such travel woes either, despite the fact that many of their journeys will be into remote areas less affected by the disease.
One example of that is the remote Pacific paradise known as Christmas Island, one of the most popular saltwater fly fishing destinations in the world. Known for big bonefish and giant trevally (GT), the destination has been hit hard by COVID-19, as people on the island have been forced into quarantine situations and flights have been cancelled.
While fall and winter hunting seasons in Africa and South America are just beginning, the first hints of travel difficulties in the southern hemisphere are taking place. At least one Outdoor Sportsman Group talent has already seen a longstanding hunting trip cancelled to a fabled destination south of the equator thanks to coronavirus precautions.
Other travel difficulties will undoubtedly take place as the crisis runs its course and travel is restricted, postponed, or even cancelled. Expect to see more hunting and fishing trips impacted before 2020 has run its course.
Because of the travel difficulties that are brewing — difficulties that could get worse before they get better — U.S. anglers and hunters should plan trips carefully, consider Plan B options, take a look at getting travel and trip insurance if problems are encountered, and even look into obtaining medical evacuation services that can be used if problems are encountered abroad or in remote areas.
Another way that the coronavirus outbreak could affect U.S. sportsmen is through the limiting of production or imports of goods into the U.S., particularly of outdoor gear being produced in China.
For fishing companies that get rods, reels, lures, line, and even clothing from China, there won’t likely be too many problems noted in the short term. Most such products for spring and summer fishing seasons are already on hand here in the U.S.
But for hunting goods being produced in China — or even components necessary for the making of such goods here in the U.S. — the recent work slowdowns and stoppages in China may cause supply chain issues and shipping problems that will be noted here as the summer catalog season arrives and shoppers go to their favorite outdoor box store to gear up for fall and winter hunting trips.
In other words, all of this could limit consumer selection possibilities as well as quantities that are available this year. Consumers are urged to do their product research and shopping earlier than usual this year. In other words, don’t procrastinate and get your necessary gear as soon as possible this year.
A final way that the gathering coronavirus storm could impact U.S. outdoors enthusiasts is in the various industry shows that will be taking place over the coming months.
Across the Atlantic, the European version of the SHOT Show — the IWA Classic 2020 — has seen its March 6-9 dates in Nuremberg, Germany postponed until early fall.
Because of the coronavirus outbreak, IWA Outdoor Classics 2020 officials have rescheduled the event for Sept. 3-6. Hopefully, by then, the worst of the outbreak will be over and the leading international exhibition for hunting and shooting equipment will be able to be held as planned.
"We hope that the industry will understand the decision to postpone,” said Petra Wolf, a member of the Management Board of NürnbergMesse, in a news release. “The aim of every exhibition has to be to create a special experience for exhibitors and visitors likewise and to enable networking and expansion of existing business relations. Unfortunately, this goal cannot be achieved under the current circumstances."
If the coronavirus outbreak crisis doesn’t begin to subside over the next few months, expect to see the possibility of even more show postponements and cancellations.
While it’s unknown at this time what various groups will do in response to the coronavirus outbreak, it’s certainly a growing concern. South by Southwest (SXSW), a major multi-day music festival in Austin, has cancelled its event for 2020. And there are even whispers that the Olympic Games, scheduled to take place in Japan later this summer, could be in jeopardy.
Expect such concerns to weigh heavily on the minds of organizers and attendees as numerous outdoors shows approach. Those range from the NRA Annual Meetings in April, to the inaugural Ducks Unlimited Expo in May, to the ICAST Show in July, to the Hunter Extravaganza shows in August, and finally to the International Fly Tackle Dealer show in October.
Obviously, much is still unknown about what the ultimate outcome will be for the coronavirus outbreak, its effects on daily life, and how it will impact outdoors enthusiasts in 2020.
What is known is that wise hunters and anglers will become informed, plan ahead as much as possible, refuse to panic, and follow the recommendations of their health care officials and providers.
In the meantime, to learn more about COVID-19 and what you can do to protect yourself, your family, and your friends, visit the CDC website for the facts, health care instructions, and timely advice that you’ll need.