COMMENT: Non-compliance shows life jacket education has failed

ONCE again it is not hard for the Recreational Fishing Alliance (RFA) of NSW to highlight the failings of the Randwick Local Government Area trial of compulsory lifejackets for rock fishers, and how dismal the education efforts to date have been. With less than 2 months to go under the 18 month trial and rock fishers set to be fined $100 for not wearing a Australian Standard lifejacket, the level of non-compliance indicates a failure by the NSW Government to even remotely implement this disastrous policy. The RFA of NSW has been pushing for changes to the Act as listed below, but to our disappointment these have been ignored by the Police Minister Troy Grant:

1.    Consideration to amend and improve the Rock Fishing Safety Act 2016, adding in a definition dealing with a responsible safe fisher who is demonstrating alternative personal safety fishing initiatives in lieu of wearing an AS approved life jacket, e.g. wearing a wet suit. Consideration should also be given to rock fishers wearing suitable footwear spikes, cleats or boots etc., this could be part of a discretionary clause which officers could  use. 

2.    Remove the reference to any fines being only attributed to the NSW Recreational Fishing Trust, or, amend and add in Justice/OEMs Water Safety Grants programs directed at Rock Fishing Safety.

3.    Engagement of the life jacket manufacturing and retail markets to ensure they are aware of the government’s Rock Fishing Safety Act AS-approved life jacket initiative, and the issuing of an investment warning to the industry based on reducing the use and retail market investment in non-compliant overseas-manufactured fishing buoyancy vests.

4.    Research into AS 4758 ratings being fit for purpose and the likely coastal conditions users might experience, and the investment in an appropriate range of rock fishing life jackets, and baseline assessment for the Randwick LGA Trial, with ongoing independent periodical assessments and rock fisher engagement. This could then be reviewed with other compliance and enforcement data or anecdotal information providing an overview.

Although three out of the 12 anglers we saw on a visit to the La Perouse rocks over the Easter holiday were wearing fishing vests that may be suitable and three were wearing appropriate footwear, there was effectively 100% non-compliance to the Act.

Fine revenue is set to be re-directed to the Recreational Fishing Trusts, but the RFA will not accept any revenue under these circumstances and will continue to push this back to Troy Grant’s Water Safety Grants. We should not accept this blood money under this current policy failure. Take your money back, Minister Grant.

Stay tuned for more on this debate. 

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