Coroner suggests mandatory flotation devices for fishos

The Coroner recommends the NSW government investigate the mandatory use of PFDs for rock fishing.
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A Coronial inquiry into recent rock-fishing fatalities in NSW has recommended the state government investigate whether a flotation device should become mandatory for rock fishing.

The inquiry into 12 rock fishing deaths in 2009 and 2010 also recommended the government look into installing more warning signs and provide extra funding for education campaigns, particularly those targeting migrants and non-English speaking visitors.

The fatalities included five people killed in a single incident at Catherine Hill Bay, in southern Lake Macquarie last May. Others died on the Central Coast, in Sydney and around Wollongong.

Handing down his findings in Newcastle yesterday, NSW Deputy State Coroner Mark Buscombe said there were factors common among all 12 deaths. All of the victims were born overseas, most were Asian, none wore a lifejacket and most accidents occurred during the night when visibility was poor.

'They also have occurred when the sea conditions have been particularly dangerous, highlighting the need for people to check and obey weather warnings,' Mr Buscombe said.

'The need to communicate the relevant safety messages to persons who are of non Anglo-Celtic background is something that was highlighted in the evidence before me.'

Fishing groups have stopped short of supporting moves to make lifejackets compulsory for rock fishermen.
Australian National Sportsfishing Association NSW vice-president, John Burgess said that, while he supported most of the recommendations, lifejackets should remain voluntary.

He said that, apart from being a difficult law to enforce, a lifejacket could actually do more harm than good in many instances.

'If you have a traditional lifejacket on and you get into a bad position, you'll just bounce around like a toy and get smashed to pieces,' he said.

Recreational Fishing Alliance of NSW chairman Malcolm Poole said introducing and enforcing compulsory lifejackets would be 'complicated'. 'Our position is to support fishing safety, but it's not up to recreational fishermen to mandate the use of lifejackets,' he said.