ENVIRONMENT: Last rights for Bluefish Point?

THE old Manly Daily once described Sydney’s Bluefish Point as “the peninsula’s most notorious fishing spot”. It was also one of the most productive, and I and my relatives and friends spent thousands of hours there from the late ’60s into, in my case, the 2000s, chasing all manner of rock fishing targets. I could, and still might, write a book about the characters and crazy catches from that time. 

But it was always dangerous. Exposed to big seas from all directions, and requiring rope climbs to access, there were lots of deaths. The first drowning was recorded in 1890 and many more followed. From 1990 alone there have been ten. In the 100 years between these dates, it’s been suggested there were at least 50 more drownings. 

And then there were falls, mainly non-fatal, but often serious and requiring emergency service rescues. At age 16 I was one of those. Fee-fell about 13 metres, saved by having a bulky pack and landing on it, but on crutches for three months after. I could name a couple of other well known “tumblers” but will protect their privacy.

From 1926 to 1990 Bluefish also hosted one of Sydney’s three ocean outfalls, or Murks. That made the big tidal pools there rather unattractive for swimmers, but after the deep ocean outfalls were commissioned, we found ourselves sharing the platform with backpackers who’d read about the pools on social media and turned up to swim in them. Youth seemed to protect most of them from serious trouble, despite totally inappropriate footwear and lack of safety gear. It couldn’t last though. In January 2023, a 20-year-old Swedish backpacker fell, hit his head, and was washed out to sea. His body was never found.

A couple of years earlier, a 21-year-old local woman climbed onto the roof of a derelict WW 2 blockhouse just behind the first rope descent. She’d gone to watch the sunrise with her best friend. Part of the blockhouse collapsed, and she was killed.

Prior to the late 1960s, Bluefish was on Defence land, and you needed an annual pass to go in and fish. Now the NSW NPWS controls the precinct and despite its original plans and undertakings to improve access, provide parking and restore the tracks, it now seems clear that the current prohibition on entry is here to stay. We’re in the era of risk assessments. The ladders have been removed from neighbouring North Head and the access track to Old Man’s Hat remains officially closed as well. And it’s reported that the climbing anchors and ropes at Bluefish Point have this month been removed by NPWS contractors.

So, no way down to Bluefish now, but great memories for a lot of us old rock hoppers. Sad but inevitable in the risk-averse 2020s?

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