Photographer Nigel Raynard was standing on the headland at Boulder Beach early Easter Sunday when he saw two fishermen swept off the rocks at The Peg. They were saved by a passing surfer.
Photographer Nigel Raynard was standing on the headland at Boulder Beach early Easter Sunday when he saw two fishermen swept off the rocks at The Peg. They were saved by a passing surfer. Contributed

Life jackets could be mandatory for rock fishermen

JOHN Ski would happily wear a life jacket if he was fishing from a headland, but the more than 35-year angling veteran says the floatation aid would only be useful at some locations.

"If I was fishing up around Byron Bay or Broken Head or places where I would have to climb down a sort of cliff face where I had to fish I would wear one," he said.

"Around Flat Rock or Black Head or some other places I don't think wearing a life jacket would be necessary."

Over the past five years, 68 rock fishers have been swept to their death along the Australian coastline.

A Coronial inquest being held this week in Sydney will examine the issue of mandatory life jackets for rock fisherman.

The coroner will examine the deaths of eight rock fisherman over the past three years in NSW.

Rock fishing was the leading cause of coastal drownings in NSW in 2013/2014.

FISHING VETERAN: John Ski said he would wear a life jacket in some locations if it was mandatory.
FISHING VETERAN: John Ski said he would wear a life jacket in some locations if it was mandatory. Marc Stapelberg

Gavin Scrimshaw of Evans Head Sports and Marine said commonsense should prevail when rock fishing.

"Some of the life jackets can be a bit restrictive ... and can hamper your fishing at times," he said.

"I think some fishermen I know would be willing to wear a life jacket, but there will be some that won't.

"People should always check the conditions before they go rock fishing and if in doubt go and talk to your local fishing store."

Angel Ring coordinator Stan Konstantaras said while there hadn't been a recent rock fishing fatality on the Northern Rivers, locally there were 10 devices installed.

Angel rings are located at the Yamba break wall, Iluka break wall, Evans Head break wall, Ballina break wall, Iron Peg at Skennars Head, Broken Head, Kings Beach and Cape Byron.

Surf Life Saving NSW lifesaving manager Andy Kent said getting the safety message through to rock fishermen was difficult.

"Rock fishing is a very risky and dangerous sport," he said.

"The statistics are showing us that and it's generally males who are drowning and they are generally the risk-takers.

"We really think that life jacket legislation will be the key to dropping the drowning toll."

At a glance

68 rock fishers have died in Australia in five years

Coronial inquest to examine mandatory legislation of life jackets

Rock fishing was the leading cause of drownings in NSW in 2013/14

Angel rings have saved more than 60 people in NSW

There are 10 Angel rings in the region



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