Rock fishing: Leading cause of coastal NSW drownings

While overall coastal drowning figures for NSW are significantly down from last year, for the first time rock fishing deaths have topped the list at 26.7 per cent, making it the leading cause of all coastal drownings.

Eight people died while rock fishing in the 2013-14 year in NSW and 27 rockfishing deaths have been recorded since 2011-12. None of the victims were wearing a lifejacket.

These alarming statistics, revealed in the Surf Life Saving National Coastal Safety Report 2014, put rock fishing ahead of swimming/wading which accounted for 23.3 per cent of total drownings last year in NSW. For the first time, the crude population rate of drowning related to rock fishing is higher than swimming and wading.

Further analysis of participation figures shows that you are over three times more likely to die rock fishing compared to any other coastal activity, such as swimming or surfing.

These statistics reinforce the importance of prevention strategies piloted by Surf Life Saving to reduce rock-fishing related drownings, including targeted education programs with ethnic and other at-risk communities and expanding a state-wide Dangerous Surf Warning system in partnership with the Bureau of Meteorology and recreational fishing groups.

Surf Life Saving NSW is also strengthening its stance on mandating the wearing of lifejackets while rock fishing, in light of the latest figures detailed in the report.

“Rock fishing is one of Australia’s most dangerous sporting pastimes and we have been struggling to address the drowning problem for some years,” said SLSNSW Lifesaving Manager, Andy Kent.

“Rock fishing fatalities also have a huge impact on our frontline volunteers, who are called on to respond to these distressing incidents with increasing regularity.

"When we successfully rescue someone who has been swept into the sea it’s almost inevitably because they are wearing a lifejacket. Unfortunately these good news stories are few and far between,” said Mr Kent.

In total there were 30 coastal drowning deaths recorded in 2013-14, compared to 46 in 2012-13.

Rock fishing safety messages:

  • Stay alert to the weather and ocean conditions
  • Always wear a life jacket
  • Wear appropriate non-slip footwear and light clothing
  • Always fish with a friend
  • Never turn your back on the ocean
  • Do not jump in if someone is washed in - wait for assistance
  • Call Triple Zero – Police to report an in-water emergency


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