Community Champions Keeping WA Fishers Safe

Renowned for its pristine coastal landscapes, beaches and unique rock formations, Esperance is a popular spot for recreational fishing, hikers and four wheel drive enthusiasts.

With fishing high on the agenda for travelling families and tourists to the region, as they take a break in this beautiful seaside town, it’s the rocky terrain and unforgiving weather conditions at times, that can turn a pleasant trip down South into a disaster when lives are lost from slipping from a rock whilst fishing.

In late January 2017, two children (9 & 11yo) from a family went for a swim at Hellfire Bay (50km’s from Esperance, near Lucky Bay) and became caught in a rip. The father watched from the rocks, before noticing the children getting into trouble and moving into deeper water. An Angel Ring (life buoy) was located close by and the man was able swim the ring to his children who were then able to grab hold of it and together they were able to swim sideways to the rip and make their way safety ashore.

Local community champions Graham Cooper, Mike Spencer, Brett Thorp and Vince Evans have been working hard to keep their community safe when fishing from the rocks.

The team, who are all members of the South East Coast Recreational Fishing Council, recently installed six new Angel Rings and one Rock Anchor Point in areas which were identified as high-risk rock fishing locations along the coast from Quaggi Beach to Hopetoun.

‘’Who knows what would have happened if the Angel Ring wasn’t there,” said Mike.

‘’We applied for a Recfishwest Community Grant and have been pushing for more public safety equipment, such as Angel Rings and Rock Anchor Points to be installed at high risk fishing locations along the South Coast.”

‘’We could have had a three person fatality count that day. This incident certainly covers all the costs of installing the Angel Rings along the South East Coast.’’

Recfishwest CEO Dr Andrew Rowland commended the South East Coast Recreational Fishing Council for their efforts over so many years to keep West Aussies safe.

‘’Graham, Mike, Brett. Vince and others are great community role models and champions, volunteering their time to install public safety equipment which so many fishers rely on,” Dr Rowland said.

”Angel rings are an important part of our Fishing Safety Program and they have been used to save lives on the south coast.’’

“There are so many great people around WA who have dedicated their time to help their community stay safe when out fishing, from Quobba to Esperance, these people have hearts of gold and the 750,000 WA fishers should be grateful for the service they provide!”

Thanks to community partners and local helpers, more Angel Rings are set to be installed in Bremer Bay and Denmark. Currently there are 61 locations across the state with 67 Angel Rings installed for the community’s safety. View the locations here.

If you know of a rock fishing location that could do with an Angel Ring, let Recfishwest know at

Opportunity to Improve Fishing Safety via New Lifejacket Trial

Opportunity to Improve Fishing Safety via New Lifejacket Trial

On April 2nd, 2018 a local Albany man lost his life after being swept into the water while fishing at the Deeps and on April 28th, 2018 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 a life jacket.

On April 29th the WA Premier Mark McGowan announced the state Government would invest in a trial of mandatory wearing of lifejackets for rock fishers at ‘Blackspots’ in WA.

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 we believe 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.  We 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.  We are also very interested in specific details around the types of life jackets 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 – (block foam, manual inflate, auto inflate, Aust. 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 vs having to wear one because they are scared of getting a fine.”

Fact File:

In the past 16 years (2002 – 2018) on average 2 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, ‘oh yeah let’s just introduce a piece of legislation mandating the use of life jackets,’ 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, visit:

Safety First This Abalone Season

Safety First during Abalone Season

Recfishwest and Surf Life Saving WA are urging people to remain mindful of the conditions and take personal responsibility for their actions through the abalone season which begins this Sunday, November 1.

The popular West Coast Zone abalone season sees thousands of recreational abalone fishers take to the inshore reefs around the metropolitan coastline, during the one-hour fishing periods from 7am-8am on the first Sunday of each month until March.

Recfishwest Chief Executive Officer Dr Andrew Rowland said abalone is one of the most sought after shellfish with over 15,000 licence holders taking part in the fishery each year.

“We urge abalone fishers to exercise caution whilst fishing and to be aware of the weather conditions. This outdoor activity is a great way to spend the morning with the family as long as it is carried out safely’’ Dr Rowland said.

“The abalone season being stretched out over several months’ means that the community has access to fresh abalone over a longer period of time and fishers can choose not to fish if the weather is unfavourable.”

Surf Life Saving WA reports that in the past four years, three people have lost their lives whilst abalone fishing in WA.

“Three drowning deaths in just four years is an alarmingly high figure for just one coastal recreational activity,” explains SLSWA General Manager Chris Peck.

“As a result, volunteer Surf Life Savers from various clubs will again be on patrol in an attempt to prevent fishers from involvement in drowning incidents and where possible respond to high risk situations as they occur.”

“If you think the conditions look dangerous, your swimming capabilities aren’t strong enough to get you out of danger, or you’re not properly equipped with the right gear – don’t risk your life and the lives of others.” pleaded Mr Peck.

Recfishwest and SLSWA have offered these tips for all abalone fishers:
1. Check conditions – before heading out check weather conditions, including wind conditions and swells. Visit for up to date reports or download the free Beachsafe App.
2. Observe first, fish later – do not attempt to fish if you are unsure. Read the warnings and dangers on any safety signs.
3. Wear appropriate clothing or wetsuits – Avoid heavy clothing, including tracksuits and work boots that become water logged and heavy.
4. Never fish alone – stay in a group and keep an eye out for your friends and other fishers.
5. Don’t panic – if in trouble stay calm and raise one arm and wave from side to side to attract attention.
With so many recreational fishers accessing the resource, Dr Rowland encouraged fishers to abide by size and bag limits in the West Coast Zone to ensure this iconic species remains sustainable well into the future.

A bag limit of 15 Roe’s Abalone per person/ per day in the West Coast Zone applies. A copy of the Recreational Fishing for Abalone Guide can be found on the Department of Fisheries website