Opportunity to improve fishing safety via new lifejacket trial

On April 2 this year, an Albany man lost his life after being swept into the water while fishing at The Deeps, a fishing spot about 2km from Lowlands Beach.

Just weeks later, on April 28 this year, two fishermen were swept from the rocks at Salmon Holes and are lucky to be alive. In both instances none of the fishermen were wearing lifejackets.

On April 29, Premier Mark McGowan announced the State Government would invest in a trial of mandatory wearing of lifejackets for rock fishers at blackspots in WA.

Lifejackets, like the Crewsaver pictured, help save fishers’ lives.

Champions of fishing safety

Recfishwest are champions of fishing safety, having a strong track record of activities aimed at keeping fishers safe. Recfishwest strongly advocate that those who fish from exposed rocky shorelines should wear appropriate lifejackets.

Nevertheless, Recfishwest believes the choice to wear a lifejacket when fishing from the rocks should remain that of individual fishers.

While Recfishwest do not support a blanket approach to the mandatory wearing of lifejackets for rock fishers State-wide, this trial is a great opportunity to answer a number of important questions.

Details of the trial are still unknown and Recfishwest look forward to providing input when requested and gain a better understanding how this trial initiative complements current fishing safety initiatives such as safety signs, rock anchor points and angel rings.

The organisation are interested to learn more about the details of the trial such as when it will commence, how long will it run for and who will run it.

Reaching measurable outcomes

Recfishwest are also very interested in specific details around the types of lifejackets types that will be used in the trial.

If fishing safety in WA is to truly benefit from this trial, it must be constructed in a way that is guided by the best available information. Recfishwest expect the trial objectives to be clear, the trial methods to be robust and the trial outcomes to be measurable.

Lifejackets for rock fishing are not a one-size-fits-all solution and this trial provides an opportunity to assess a range of lifejacket types and determine the appropriate lifejacket(s) specific to WA’s high risk rock fishing locations.

These standards include block foam, manual inflate, auto inflate, Australian standards, buoyancy, servicing requirements, abrasion resistance, swimming ability, swell size, cost, practicality, user friendly.

Recfishwest would rather people understand why they need to wear a lifejacket and choose to wear one, compared to having to wear one because they are scared of getting a fine.

The harsh reality

In the past 16 years (2002 – 2018), on average two lives (29 total) are lost every year across WA’s 20,000km of coastline as a result of fishing from rocks. We believe all of these fatalities are preventable and we will continue be proactive in the promotion of lifejackets for everyone.

Recfishwest are currently leading WA’s fishing safety strategy which focuses on risk management and encouraging/ educating people to avoid rock fishing when appropriate, including our latest ‘Keep the Sand Between Your Toes’ campaign.

To the broader non-fishing community this issue appears quite black and white, but from a practical perspective and from a general fisher knowledge perspective it’s actually a lot more complex than that.

We all know lifejackets play a very important part of fishing safety, however, Recfishwest believe people must take personal responsibility more seriously and make better decisions on when and where they go fishing. Lifejackets only work when you’re in the water and there are plenty of other safety steps and decisions people need to make before they even get onto a rock to go fishing.

To read our position on the mandating of wearing lifejackets while rock fishing and some examples of the work we do, along with our partners, to help ensure West Aussies return home safe after a days fishing, click here.