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The first in a series of ground-breaking rock fishing safety sessions has been delivered at Port Kembla this weekend, with Surf Life Saving NSW and the NSW Government joining forces to build awareness of the dangers of the sport.

‘Gone Fishing Day’ is a practical, first-of-its-kind program designed to better educate rockfishers on the safety measures and skills that can make this popular pastime a whole lot safer.

More than 100 participants (320 people including families) from 20 different nationalities  took part in the program on Saturday at the Illawarra blackspot.

In NSW from July 2021 to June 2022, 10 people lost their lives while rockfishing. At Hill 60, Port Kembla alone – the site of the inaugural program – in the last 20 months, six people have drowned while rock fishing.

With the support of the Government through the Department of Primary Industries, Surf Life Saving NSW will host a minimum of 10 coastal and 10 in-community workshops aimed specifically at multicultural and at-risk groups, including 1,000 free lifejackets and crucial lifejacket-fitting advice from experts.

“We know that for many of our rock fishing communities, especially those newer to Australia, there is a lack of basic safety knowledge and understanding of the dangers of rockfishing,” said Surf Life Saving NSW CEO Steve Pearce.

“This is practical and targeted rock fishing safety education that will help save lives.”

‘Gone Fishing Day’ aims to equip rock fishers with the tools to safely visit the coastline and then return home to their families.

“We understand that across Australia more than one million people participate in rock fishing along our coastline each year, with the majority here in from NSW,” Steve Pearce said.

“Many people think Surf Life Saving is about volunteers on the beach and swimming between the red and yellow flags, but our educational reach extends so much further.

“Programs like ‘Gone Fishing Day’ are vital for our at-risk communities to learn valuable skills and be able to better understand the dynamic nature of the ocean and the dangers involved with rock fishing and how to ensure you protect yourself and your family.

“We’re very excited to begin delivering these workshops, which we hope will have a positive impact on at-risk communities and our coastal drowning toll.”

Participants learn how to prepare for the day, how to pick a safe location, what safety gear to bring, how to assess the conditions and what to do if they get washed into the surf, among other crucial safety tips.

Minister for Agriculture Dugald Saunders announced in July that the NSW Recreational Fishing Fund would invest $205,000 toward the delivery of these workshops.

Following the program launch at Port Kembla this weekend, the next ‘Gone Fishing Day’ is set down to take place at Coffs Harbour on 8 October before moving south to Avoca, La Perouse and Kurnell.

11 September 2022