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Wearing of lifejackets by rock fishers – Have your say

THE NSW Government is seeking public comment on the proposed compulsory wearing of life jackets for anglers on the state’s coastal rock platforms.

Via a discussion paper and online survey the public is being asked to comment on rock fishing safety related issues including: where and when rock fishers should wear life jackets, education and awareness campaigns, types of life jackets and buoyancy vest, the cost to purchase and maintain equipment, how regulations would be enforced, penalties, and the use of revenue raised from penalties.

The discussion paper has only targeted anglers who are rock fishing on coastal rock platforms and whether they should wear a life jacket.

The paper has not addressed other people who venture on to rock platforms and are exposed to the same risks and are often ill-equipped and less prepared than the average angler.

Click here to read the paper and complete the survey:

The last date for submissions is 30 September 2013.

Following the release of the discussion paper the Recreational Fishing Alliance of NSW, which along with the Australian National Sportfishing Association, various partners and fishing clubs, is heavily involved in programs to educate and promote rock fishing safety, has detailed its views on the discussion paper in its latest newsletter:

Our focus has been on public awareness and education campaigns like ‘Don’t Put Your Life on the Line’, encouraging rock fishers to make safe and sensible decisions about where and when they go fishing, wearing the right footwear, clothing and safety equipment, and providing guidelines on safe fishing

That work has included: the Angel Ring program, with 116 Angel Rings now in place on the NSW coast; our ‘Don’t put your life on the line’ safety videos distributed on free DVDs, on YouTube and in newsletters and websites; our emailed rock fishing safety alerts sent to thousands of people whenever conditions are risky; our website; presence at
fishing and boating shows and community events; free rock fishing safety clinics; advertisements in ethnic print, radio and TV media; appearances,interviews and articles in mainstream TV, radio and press.

This work has been undertaken by volunteers, assisted by government grants and funds from the NSW recreational fishing licence to cover production and distribution of materials, advertising costs and so on. A number of government agencies and Surf Life Saving NSW have also increased their efforts to reduce these statistics. We have seen an increase in the number
of anglers choosing to wear life jackets and other types of buoyancy devices, so education seems to be working.

Despite this, rock fishers are still tragically drowning: 12 from July 2011 to June 2012, dropping to 8 in 2012-2013. Greater awareness and education, the increased use of life jackets and buoyancy vests and proper clothing/footwear by anglers is probably saving lives. But growing
participation rates means a greater number of anglers are at risk, so more work is needed.

Our position is:

. The dangers associated with rock fishing are predictable and preventable.

. We support education-this is the key to influencing and changing people’s attitudes about where and when they decide to go rock fishing.

. We do not support legislation to make life jackets compulsory.

. We do not support closing off access tracks or rock fishing spots as a preventive measure.

. We do not support the concept that wearing a life jacket will automatically keep you safe-the situation is more complicated than that.

. Rock fishers need to be aware of the considerations, personal decision-making and responsibilities that affect their personal safety and the safety of others.

. There has not been enough research and discussion into what types of life jackets are suitable for anglers. The types prescribed for use in boats are not always practical for angling situations, and there is a growing range of buoyancy vests and other emergency flotation devices that rock fishers can wear or carry. We are concerned that hasty regulations could result in unsuitable devices being prescribed and other valuable safety options being ignored.

. We always advocate life jackets for rock fishers who are new to the sport, have limited swimming skills and who fish alone and linking this to education strategies is more important than introducing restrictive, impractical and unenforceable legislation.

The RFA of NSW will continue to focus on educating anglers to make decisions prior to leaving home and arriving at their chosen rock fishing location and carrying safety gear including life jackets, as opposed to relying on legislation to enforce the notion that putting on a life jacket
will save your life.

First and foremost we say that if it’s too rough, stay home or find a calmer and more sheltered spot to fish.

Any comments or questions please post them here on Facebook or contact the RFA of NSW, email

Click here to read the paper and complete the survey:

The last date for submissions is 30 September 2013.

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