The Nationals WA will seek to make the use of personal flotation devices (PFDs) mandatory in designated dangerous rock fishing areas after a motion was successfully passed at the party’s State Conference in Manjimup.
Member for the South West Colin Holt said the issue was of particular concern along the south coast of Western Australia, where a number of people had lost their life while rock fishing in recent years.
“Since 2004 there have been at least 21 rock fishing deaths in WA, as well as a number of non-fatal rescues, injuries and near misses associated with rock fishing,” Mr Holt said.
“While we have introduced extensive education campaigns encouraging the voluntary use of PFDs, the incidence of anglers without the life-saving devices being swept off the rocks has not diminished.
“Mandating use of a lifejacket may help save a life, particularly in those locations along the south coast such as Salmon Holes where anglers may be forced to spend significant time in the water awaiting rescue.”
The Nationals spokesperson for fisheries and emergency services Colin de Grussa MLC said the loss of life from rock fishing was traumatic for families and first responders.
“Rock fishing accidents have a devastating effect, not just on the families who lose a loved one, but on the volunteer rescue crews who must expose themselves to danger and risk their own lives to recover injured or deceased persons from dangerous waters,” he said.
Mr de Grussa said a similar initiative had been successfully introduced in New South Wales in response to a number of rock fishing deaths and incidents.
“The NSW Government implemented the Rock Fishing Safety Act 2016, which makes it an offence not to wear an approved life jacket in designated high-risk locations, with on-the-spot fines of $100 for those who do not wear a PFD.
“Introducing similar legislation in WA would make rock fishing safer for anglers, their families and emergency service personnel.”
Mr Holt has consulted widely with marine rescue service volunteers in the South West about the impact of rock fishing fatalities on volunteers and the community.
“Mandatory use of PFDs is supported by the Albany Sea Rescue Squad, whose members have witnessed firsthand the devastating loss of life that may have been prevented,” Mr Holt said.
“Studies from UWA in Albany and those undertaken in California have shown the best way to increase lifejacket use is to make it mandatory, rather than voluntary.”