With the recent deaths of two (2) rock fishermen over the Easter period, and over 1.2 million people (8% of the population) participating in the activity annually, it’s a timely reminder that rock fishing safety is a priority.
Rock fishing has been dubbed the most dangerous sport in Australia due to the associated high risks of injury and immersion. Furthermore, rock fishing is rated the third highest cause of coastal drowning in Australia, following swimming/wading and boating. For these reasons it remains at the forefront of coastal safety and research initiatives across multiple agencies and state governments.
There has been a total of 158 rock fishing deaths in the past 13 years (2004-2017) – 150 (95%) were male individuals with an average age of 45 years.
A large portion, 98 (62%), were individuals born overseas, 38 (24%) of who were born in China/Hong Kong, and 16 (10%) born in Korea. A further 22% of rock fishing deaths were Australian born individuals, which highlights the diversity of people engaging in the activity.
The extensive rocky coastlines of NSW, WA and VIC, combined with frequent hazardous surf conditions, create a high-risk environment for fishers. Waves and slippery surfaces are prevalent causal factors in rock fishing fatalities. In addition, lifejackets are not being worn by the majority of participants (only 17% always use one) and 99% of victims were without a personal floatation device or lifejacket when they drowned.
Other key findings include:
- 37% of victims lived more than 50km from the drowning location
- 30% of fatalities occurred between 2pm and 6pm, with a further 14% occurring at night between 6pm and 6am
- 55% of fatalities are known to have occurred due to being washed off rocks by waves.
Surf Life Saving Australia urges all rock fishers to:
- Wear a lifejacket
- 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 the latest safety information – including patrolled beach locations – visit beachsafe.org.au