ROCK FISHERS AT RISK IN AUSTRALIA’S MOST DANGEROUS SPORT
Surf lifesavers are calling on rock fishers to wear a lifejacket, as staggering statistics reveal one in four cannot swim or are weak ocean swimmers.
In the last two weeks alone, three rock fishers have tragically lost their lives after being swept off the rocks by waves, with a high number of rescues also occurring along the Australian coastline.
The popular Australian pastime results in an average 13 deaths every year, and as COVID-19 restrictions begin to lift and more people look to get outside, Surf Life Saving Australia (SLSA) is pleading with rock fishers to make personal safety a priority.
SLSA General Manager Coastal Safety, Shane Daw, said the tragic loss of lives every year from rock fishing makes it Australia’s most dangerous sport.
“Rock fishing is a sport enjoyed by many across the country, but it also brings with it inherent dangers if people don’t wear a life jacket and adhere to the warnings,” said Daw.
“Since 2004 there have been 192 fatalities, on average 13 a year, with men making up 95% of the deaths.
“Despite the warning signs implemented by many local councils and education by Surf Life Saving, 83% of those who lost their life were not wearing a lifejacket.
“We don’t want to discourage people from rock fishing, however there are some simple steps people can take to keep themselves safe. Understanding the area where they are going fishing, learning how to read the surf and wave periods and wearing the right gear (lifejackets, cleated shoes) can ensure lives are not put at risk,” said Daw.
The extensive rocky coastlines of NSW, WA and VIC, combined with frequent hazardous surf conditions, create a high-risk environment for rock fishers. Waves and slippery surfaces are prevalent causal factors in rock fishing fatalities.
Waves and slippery surfaces contributed to 85% rock fishing fatalities, but only 4% of victims were known to be wearing a lifejacket at the time of incident. With one quarter of rock fishers advising they are weak swimmers or unable to swim in the ocean.
Almost three quarters of rock fishing victims were born overseas, 53% from Asian regions, while 28% of rock fishing deaths were Australian-born, which highlights the diversity of people engaging in this activity.
- 51% of victims lived more than 50km from the drowning location
- 41% of fatalities occurred between 12noon and 6pm, with a further 21% occurring at night between 6pm and 6am
- 71% of fatalities are known to have occurred due to being washed off rocks by waves
- 11% were impacted by drugs or alcohol.
Surf Life Saving Australia advice:
- Wear a lifejacket, ensure it is properly fitted and maintained
- Check tides weather and surf conditions
- Take personal responsibility, think twice and assess your safety
- Plan an escape route in case you are washed into the water
- Wear the right gear i.e. lifejacket, appropriate footwear, lightweight clothing
- Never fish alone, and make sure you tell someone where you are going and when you will be back
- Look for Angel Rings or someone other floatation device to throw to someone in trouble
- Call 000 if assistance is required.
For a copy of the latest Coastal Safety Brief – Rock Fishing click here
For the latest safety information – including patrolled beach locations – visit beachsafe.org.au