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More than 100 participants attended Surf Life Saving NSW’s innovative rock fishing safety program at Sydney’s Little Bay, learning vital skills to stay safe and taking home a free, properly fitted lifejacket.

This is the fourth such workshop and the first for Sydney, strategically held in the Randwick City Council area which has some of the most notorious rock fishing spots in the state and has been the scene of many drownings over the years. Randwick was the first council to adopt legislation mandating that all rock fishers wear a lifejacket.

In NSW from July 2021 to June 2022, 12 people lost their lives while rock fishing. So far this summer there has been two rock fishing related drownings in NSW.

With the support of the NSW 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 giving out 1,000 free lifejackets and offering crucial lifejacket-fitting advice from experts.

Minister for Emergency Services, Steph Cooke, attended the workshop and congratulated the participants for putting safety first in this often dangerous pastime.

“This is a really important workshop. We have seen too many people lose their lives, in what is otherwise a wonderful activity. Thank you to everyone who has given up your time to better understand what you can do to keep yourselves and your family safe. Evidence does say that wearing a lifejacket will in fact save your life if you find yourself in difficulty,” said Minister Cooke.

Amna Awan from Pakistan heard about the workshop on social media and was keen to learn more about a new sport and how to stay safe.

“In Pakistan, we don’t have a lot of coastline there, so coming to Australia six months ago,  I’ve seen a lot of people fishing and I wanted to learn more, as safety is the first thing that comes to mind when you start a new hobby. It was a very informative session and I learned a lot and I’m looking forward to starting rockfishing,” she said.

The session on lifejacket fitting was of particular interest to Amna.

“I used to think you put your lifejacket on, you’re safe, but you’re not, you need to have the right fitting.”

Jingchen Liu from Chatswood said he loves to rock fish, spending time near the water and listening to the waves.

“I’ve learned quite a lot about rockfishing today. I’m using an inflatable lifejacket, so today I understand that these manual ones can be hard to inflate, and it’s better to use another type of jacket in case you go unconscious.

“I will definitely recommend this program to friends, I will share within my community the information we’ve learnt today. Always check the weather, how big are the waves how big is the swell. You don’t go to somewhere you’ve never been to before and never fish alone, very dangerous.”

Another young participant, Minh Nguyen, said he enjoyed rockfishing with mates and was hoping to learn more about how to gauge conditions on the water.

“I’ve just started out rockfishing and heard a few stories from people about bad things that have happened to them. I want to know how do I stay safe when undertaking this activity.”

Workshop sessions include the reviewing and wearing of correct lifejackets, safe and unsafe clothes and footwear, what to wear in different conditions, what to pack when rock fishing and expert fishing tips.

In the afternoon participants went down to the rock platform at Little Bay to learn about the specific hazards and unsafe fishing locations in the Little Bay area, with the help of surf lifesavers and Randwick City Council lifeguards.

SLSNSW President, George Shales, said the day aims to equip rock fishers with the tools to safely visit the coastline and then return home to their families.

“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,” he said.

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

Thursday 9 February 2023