Take extra care to return home safe from abalone fishing

Recfishwest is urging abalone fishers to be cautious of an expected higher than usual tide while gathering abalone this Saturday, after two Perth fishers tragically lost their lives on the season’s last fishing day.

Abalone fishers must remain cautious of an expected higher than usual tide while gathering abalone this Saturday.

The hour-long abalone fishing window is poised to go ahead this Saturday between 7am and 8am, with a medium risk forecast by Surf Life Saving WA (SLSWA).

Abalone fishers are being urged to take particular care for this session, the third of the season, due to the forecast high tide.

SLSWA has flagged this will increase the amount of water on top of reef platforms, increasing the number of fishers who will be snorkelling and increasing the obscurity of reef edges and holes.

Recfishwest CEO Dr Andrew Rowland warned fishers must not be complacent while in the water.

“Ultimately, everyone needs to take responsibility for their own safety,” he said.

“If you’re not confident in your swimming ability or don’t have the right swimwear and gear – don’t risk your life and the lives of others this Saturday.”

Stay safe, return home

On the last abalone fishing day, on 9 January, WA’s fishing community was saddened by the news of two abalone fishers losing their lives – a man fishing for abalone at Mettam’s Pool and a man diving for abalone from a boat off Hillarys.

Following these tragic events, Recfishwest is urging abalone fishers to exercise caution this Saturday by:

  • Checking weather conditions, including wind conditions and swells, before heading out;
  • Observing first, fishing later – do not attempt to fish for abalone if you are unsure about the conditions;
  • Wearing appropriate clothing or wetsuits – avoid heavy clothing, including tracksuits and work boots that become waterlogged and heavy;
  • Never fishing alone, stay in a group and keep an eye out for your friends and other fishers; and,
  • Don’t panic – if in trouble, stay calm and raise one arm and wave from side to side to attract attention.
Recfishwest is urging abalone fishers to be aware of the weather conditions.

Dr Rowland urged abalone fishers to be cautious and aware of the weather conditions.

“If Saturday’s conditions are unfavourable and you don’t feel comfortable entering the water, don’t,” he said.

“There are two more fishing days of the abalone season next month where you can chase abs – don’t risk your life.

“That said there are thousands of abalone fishers who enjoy fishing for this highly valued shellfish every year perfectly safely by taking the appropriate safety measures.

“We want our community to continue to be able to enjoy the fishery and will push for more access to it should the stock recovery continue  – but everyone needs to take responsibility for their own safety and look out for each other out there.”

How is the risk assessed?

When determining whether to open abalone days, SLSWA assesses conditions through its hazardous surf assessment model to determine risk.

It takes multiple factors into account including wind, swell, tide and wave period to develop a risk matrix of low, medium and high.

This assessment is reviewed multiple times ahead of the fishing day and provided to Recfishwest and the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPRID).

Based on SLSWA’s assessed condition and recommendation, DPIRD decide on the Wednesday morning before a fishing Saturday is to take place, as to whether it goes ahead or not.

Although, WA’s abalone season is the only fishing season with in-season rules to change management based on safety, fishers need to take accountability of their safety.

It is important to wear appropriate clothing, such as a wetsuit, and avoid heavy clothing when gathering abalone.