Improving safety for rock fishers

Issued: 7 February 2016

Rock fishers at high-risk locations will be required to wear life jackets as part of new laws aimed at increasing safety on the state's coast, Minister for Emergency Services David Elliott said today.

A working group has been established to determine where the high-risk locations will be, using information such as the number of fatalities and near drownings at a site, wave dynamics, usage and accessibility.

The locations will form part of legislation to be introduced into NSW Parliament this year however rock fishers will be given a one-year grace period before the new law is enforced.

"The message to rock fishers continues to be that they should wear a life jacket at all times, wear appropriate clothing and footwear, check conditions including the weather and never fish alone," Mr Elliott said.

"However, it is clear that more needs to be done to get that message through because the number of rock fishers dying each year in NSW is not decreasing."

In the past four years, 37 rock fishers have died in NSW and only one was wearing a life jacket. Randwick local government area recorded six deaths, followed by Wyong (5), Lake Macquarie (4), and Great Lakes (3).

A new education campaign targeting culturally and linguistically diverse communities will complement the laws and will include a dedicated advertising campaign and improved warning signs at rock fishing sites.

Transport for NSW's 'Wear a Lifejacket' material will be expanded to include content specific to rock fishers, and the Old4New van that allows boaters to exchange their old life jacket for a discounted new one will now visit rock-fishing locations, relevant multicultural sites, and carry rock fishing-appropriate lifejackets.

Marine Rescue NSW (MRNSW) Commissioner Stacey Tannos said fishing is a popular pastime in our country but you should not pay for your dinner with your life.

"We have seen a terrible loss of life from people drowning while rock fishing. MRNSW always encourages anyone on or near the water to make safety their highest priority and that means wearing a life jacket," Commissioner Tannos said.