Surf Life Saving Welcomes Rock Fishing Coronial Recommendations

Surf Life Saving NSW has welcomed the Coroner’s recommendations, which include mandating the wearing of lifejackets for rock fishers, and looks forward to assisting Police and Emergency Services with the implementation of any safety initiatives.

Surf Life Saving NSW’s Lifesaving Manger, Andy Kent, thanked the Coroner for her thorough inquest into the deaths of nine rock fishermen who were swept or fell into the water and drowned in the last few years.

Fifty-three people have died while rock fishing in NSW since 2010. Rock fishing is currently the leading cause of coastal drowning in NSW.

This inquest comes four years after Deputy State Coroner Buscombe recommended compulsory lifejackets for rock fishers should be considered and three years after a Surf Life Saving report commissioned by the Dept of Primary Industries recommended mandatory lifejackets while rock fishing be legislated.

“Surf Life Saving NSW fully supports the recommendations delivered today by the Coroner,” said Andy Kent. “We welcome the opportunity to assist Police and Emergency Services, Department of Primary Industries and recreational fishing groups to work through these recommendations and how they can be implemented.”

Surf Life Saving has been tackling rock fishing safety by focussing on public education, encouraging use of lifejackets and issuing dangerous surf warnings through the media when hazardous conditions are forecast. Despite these efforts, surf lifesavers have become increasingly frustrated as the drowning toll continues to rise.

Mandating the use of lifejackets for rock fishers is a sensible next step, according to the peak coastal safety organisation. Coastal safety assessments of rock fishing blackspots contained in Surf Life Saving’s Project Blueprint reports were tabled at the inquest.

“Our volunteer lifesavers see first-hand the untold impact these tragedies have on the families of those killed and we fully support any measures which will make the sport safer,” said Andy Kent.

“As the inquest was unable to find any evidence that wearing a lifejacket would make rock fishers less safe, we would support a move to make them mandatory as a way of reducing drownings,” he said. “This would also decrease the risk faced by our volunteers who are called on to rescue rock fishers who have been swept into the ocean.”

Surf Life Saving NSW will offer its expertise in coastal safety and risk assessment to assist in the implementation of any of the Coronial recommendations.

Thu 2 Jul 2015