ON THE LINE: The state government is due to respond next month to a coroner’s recommendation of mandatory life jackets for rock fishermen. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers.CALLS for stricterlawsforrock fishermenwon’t be answereduntil at least next month, when the state government is dueto respond to acoroner’srecommendationto make life jackets mandatory.
Hunter SurfLife SavingpresidentHenry Scruton told the Newcastle Heraldthere were“too many people dying from rock fishing” following the death of a Sydney man at Catherine Hill Bay on Saturday.
Mr Scruton called for life jackets to be made compulsory for the activity, butEmergency Services Minister David Elliott doesn’texplicitly support the idea.
“The death of any rock fisher is a tragedy,” Mr Elliott said on Monday.
“The NSW government is finalising a strategy to improve the safety of rock fishers following the Deputy Coroner’s recommendations regarding life jackets. The response is due within six months of the Deputy Coroner’s findings.”
Last July,Deputy State Coroner Carmel Forbesrecommended mandatory life jackets for rock fishingand ‘‘shock signs’’ in dangerspotssuch asSnapper Point at Frazer Park after an inquest into the deaths of nine fishermen, including three atLake Munmorah State Conservation Area.
Therecommendationcame afterevidence that warning signs, fences and education about the dangers of rock fishing had not reduced the rate of drowning deaths in NSW from between seven and eight per year.
Deputy State Coroner Carmel Forbes was told the cost of each rescue attempt in whicha rock fisherman had died was between $450,000 and $600,000.
Opposition Swansea MP Yasmin Catley, whose electorate covers part of Catherine Hill Bay, said the government already had advice from Surf Life Saving and compelling reasons to make life jackets mandatory.
“It’s like seatbelts. Some people don’t like them, or life jackets, but if you go out to the Heads at Swansea everyone has to have a life jacket on,” Ms Catley said.
“Of course personal responsibility comes into it, butgovernments have to legislate to keep people safe.”
Malcolm Poole, oftheRecreational Fishing Alliance of NSW, backedthe development of hybrid life jackets for rock fishingbut stressed the need forsafety education.
“There are 100,000 rock fishers out there who’ll go fishing annually,” he said.
“They’ve got to be able to move around rocks and remain mobile.”