Recfishwest has hit out at further delays for improving safer fishing infrastructure at an infamous fishing location in our State’s South, more than seven years after the tragic deaths of two fishermen there.
Chunjun Li, 42, and Jiaolong Zhang, 38, were rock fishing at the infamous Salmon Holes in Albany onApril 18, 2015, during dangerous swell conditions.
Neither were wearing life jackets before they were swept into the water by a rogue wave. Mr Li surfaced on a nearby beach, but bystanders were unable to revive him. Mr Zhang’s body was never recovered despite an intensive land, sea and air search over four days.
After the tragedy unravelled, the deputy state coroner made five crucial recommendations. One of those was all rock fishers were required to wear life jackets at Salmon Holes, another called for Telstra to install a mobile phone tower in the area to ensure better phone coverage in the event of future emergencies.
The need for this tower is paramount as the only current mobile coverage at Salmon Holes is in the carpark – an extremely dangerous proposition for someone in an emergency.
Recfishwest continues to place a high priority on safe fishing information and infrastructure improvements as part of our safe fishing program.
Under this program, we call for better provision of communication infrastructure to allow for quicker response times from emergency services in the event of incidents involving fishers.
Telstra tried to install a mobile base at Salmon Holes several years ago where the men lost their lives as part of their mobile blackspot program, although the site was declined by the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (DBCA) due to their concerns on the visual amenity impacts of the national park.
No other locations could be negotiated, so the plans were abandoned. Telstra are now spending the next few months finalising the design of a new tower to be placed at Cave Point lighthouse, a 13.25-metre structure which sits between The Gap and the Blowholes in Albany.
DBCA have confirmed it was working with Telstra to assess the project’s feasibility. If the site is given the green light, construction is expected to start in March of 2023.
“The fact that it has taken all this time for Telstra and DBCA to come to an agreement for plans for a mobile phone mast eight years after these two men tragically lost their lives while rock fishing beggars belief,” said Recfishwest CEO Dr Andrew Rowland. “Furthermore, fact that construction on the mast isn’t expected to start until next year is simply unacceptable and is putting fishers’ lives at risk.”
“With the high levels of telecommunication technology we have in our society, there really is no excuse for popular fishing and outdoors locations such as this not to have phone coverage – and certainly not after a coronial inquest recommendations have been made for that to happen.
“We will continue to press for better telecommunications infrastructure on the south coast and other remote parts of the state where people go to fish – it’s a crucial factor in making sure everyone comes home safe after a day’s fishing, as well as all West Australian’s who enjoy experiencing our great outdoors.”
Telstra confirmed it signed a funding agreement for the project several months ago in liaison with federal and state governments. The lighthouse that is being touted as the new Telstra tower location is managed by DBCA and is closed off to the public.
Telstra also constructed a new coverage site at Emu Point back in June and other southern areas such as Pingrup, Spencer Park, Mount Adelaide and Jerramungup. All of these areas are expected to have completed 5G upgrades by the end of September.
Recfishwest also understands there are question marks over whether the phone mast coverage will extend to Salmon Holes. Clearly, more questions need to be answered here.
Recfishwest Safe Fishing Ambassador Scott Coghlan and members of the Albany fishing community joined the Fisheries Minister Peter Tinley in Albany today to announce the State-wide Safe Fishing Strategy’s funding will be extended for four more years.
The McGowan Government will provide $560,000 to support Recfishwest to continue delivering our successful State-wide Safe Fishing Safety Strategy.
The announcement honours the McGowan Government’s 2017 election commitment to provide safer fishing experiences.
As the peak recreational fishing body representing 750,000 recfishers, Recfishwest will continue to lead the State-wide Safe Fishing Strategy and work closely with fishers, land managers and volunteer organisations to ensure fishers return home safe after a day’s fishing.
Over the next four years, Recfishwest will build upon the work undertaken through the State-wide Safe Fishing Strategy which has brought fishing safety into the public spotlight and has seen considerable progress made in changing behaviour and raising community awareness about the need for safety to be a part of every fishing experience.
Earlier this year, Recfishwest put forward a safe fishing package proposal to Government which was adopted and announced by Minister Tinley today. The announcement will see:
Recfishwest work alongside the Bureau of Meteorology to develop a hazardous swell and weather conditions alert system for recreational fishing in high risk areas;
Annual safety campaigns tailored to particular fishing seasons, species and methods.
“Recfishwest works tirelessly to promote the need for safety to be part of every fishing experience,” Recfishwest CEO Andrew Rowland said. “We work closely in partnership with local communities to drive behaviour change that has safe fishing at its core and invest in safety infrastructure across the State.
“The funding commitment made today will allow us to continue to work closely the community in ensuring the State’s 750,000 recreational fishers come home safe, whether they be rock fishers, boat fishers, kayak fishers, or spearfishers.
“We thank the Minister for Fisheries Peter Tinley and the McGowan government for honouring the election commitment and for once again entrusting Recfishwest to deliver positive on-the-ground outcomes for fishers.”
Whether fishing from the boat, beach or casting a line from the rocks, recfishers need to make safe fishing a priority and plan for a safe fishing experience particularly in the winter months, says Recfishwest Safe Fishing Officer Alanna Ellison.
“Safe fishing should be a focal part of every fishing experience and it is important recfishers make good decisions about how, where and when they go fishing. We want to make sure everyone returns home safely after a day’s fishing – no fish is worth your life,” Alanna said.
We provide high quality safety equipment at a low cost and have made significant investments in providing safe fishing infrastructure across the State.
Take stock of risks on the rocks
A string of recent incidents has highlighted how important it is to be prepared when considering fishing from rocks.
Fishing from rocks has many inherent risks – particularly in poor weather conditions and high swell. Sadly, in WA, 37 people have died while fishing from rock platforms since 2002 and every one of these deaths was preventable.
Although the angel ring network has improved WA’s safe fishing infrastructure, Alanna said lifejackets are also crucial while fishing land-based or from the boat in tough conditions.
“Lifejackets are an essential piece of safety equipment,” she said. “Whether you are boating, kayaking or rock fishing, a lifejacket may save your life.
“We provide Crewsaver Lifejackets at very competitive prices.
“The jackets are designed to be worn comfortably at all times when fishing in case an emergency quickly unfolds. Every cent we make from the sale of these lifejackets goes back into promoting safe fishing.”
A new safety initiative to keep thousands of Western Australian lobster fishers safe will be rolled out along the West Coast in the coming weeks.
In recent years, deck hands have been injured after being struck by fishing gear snagged on lobster pot lines as pots are hauled to the surface on a high-speed winch.
To combat the dangers of snagged fishing gear, Recfishwest and Western Rock Lobster have launched the Snag It Tag It safety initiative and are distributing caution tags to recreational fishers.
Recfishwest Chief Executive Officer Dr Andrew Rowland said the Snag It Tag It project is an important safety initiative.
“Rec fishers share the water with many other users and it’s important we all work together to ensure everyone returns home safe after a day’s fishing,” Dr Rowland said.
The Snag It Tag It initiative arms recreational fishers with waterproof caution tags to tie to ropes and floats if they accidently snag fishing gear on a lobster line or pot. This will mean deckhands on commercial fishing vessels face less risk of injury when pulling in pots at high speed.
Autumn is a popular season for recreational fishers to head out and fish for iconic WA species such as Dhufish, Baldchin Groper and Pink Snapper.
Recfishwest, the Australian Anglers Association (WA Division) and Western Rock Lobster have printed 4000 Snag It Tag It caution tags which have been distributed to local tackle outlets along Western Australia’s coastline.
Western Rock Lobster Chief Executive Officer Matt Taylor said the partnership with Recfishwest to deliver the caution tags to WA fishers was important to the lobster industry.
“This is a great opportunity for recreational and commercial fishers to work together to keep each other safe,” Mr Taylor said.
“We will be raising awareness and educating commercial fishers to be on the lookout for the caution tags, so they can operate winches with extra care and at a safe speed.”
“Our busy waters can be dangerous; these tags will be an important safeguard for commercial and recreational fishers alike.”
Western Rock Lobster and Recfishwest believe everyone should return home safe after a days fishing.