Deadly sport of rock fishing to get safety overhaul in Australia: expert

Source:Xinhua Published: 2015-6-4 11:07:41

Rock fishing has been identified as one of the most dangerous sport in Australia, with more people dying in an attempt to get the perfect catch.

Fishing in the ocean from dangerous and slippery rocks has resulted in more than 175 deaths on Australia's coasts in the last decade alone, and experts are concerned that the sport's rising cult status will only lead to more people getting killed.

There are currently minimal safety measures in place for rock fishermen, and coastal expert David Kennedy, an associate professor at the University of Melbourne, thinks the safety of the sport needs to be reviewed.

"It is actually listed as Australia's most dangerous sport," he told Xinhua in an interview on Thursday.

"I think some people just do it for the thrill, and some people do it for the remoteness. Some people like the solitary nature of being there."

The numbers paint a grim picture -- deaths from rock fishing have risen by 6 percent over the last 10 years -- and Kennedy said the thrill and adrenaline rush, combined with the broader range of fish available in rocky areas was proving tempting for amateur Australian fishermen.

"The species you can get are vastly different to say jetty fishing, which is enticing," he said.

"In some cases, people casting off the rocks have pulled out large tuna.

"But if you're on your own when you fall in and something goes wrong and no one is there, you're going to have a problem."

He said the sport had experienced a jump in popularity over the last 20 years, something which could also have contributed to the inflated number of deaths.

"It's also simply that there are more people fishing on the rocks... If there are more people down there, you're going to have more people dying," he said.

But despite the high risk involved with casting a line off jagged rocks near powerful surf waves, there are currently no mandatory safety procedures in place at rock fishing hotspots.

Kennedy said a review was currently underway to improve the safety of fishermen risking their lives, but the measures being discussed were not enough.

"At the moment there's a coronial inquest which started in the last couple of days, and there has been a lot of suggestion of compulsory life jackets," he said.

Kennedy and his team at the University of Melbourne told Xinhua they are working on a number of projects that would give potential fisherman the greatest understanding of the danger the sport poses.

"What we're working on here is developing an integrated hazard management system, and the main thing is to produce real time hazard maps for rock fishing," he said.

"Eventually you'll be able to look at your phone and see how dangerous individual sites are."

"We're at least providing people with more information so they can choose whether or not they still want to expose themselves to those conditions and those rocks and waves.

"But also we want managers to put resources like life rings down in areas which are dangerous."

He said the coronial inquest currently being heard by the courts in New South Wales was a good start to improving fisherman safety, but life jackets in the dangerous surf near hazardous rocks could cause more harm than good in some situations.

"With life jackets, if you can't swim and you end up in the water, the life jacket is going to be a positive, but the problem is if they're not well designed, it might keep you trapped near the rocks and in the dangerous surf zone," he said.

Despite the dangers involved with the extreme sport, Kennedy said any calls to ban rock fishing were ludicrous.

"I don't think it should be banned, I think people make a decision to go down there. You're not affecting anyone else by doing it and I suppose if you banned everything with a little danger, we wouldn't be allowed to cross the road," he said.

Kennedy said the next step in beach safety was to have dangerous rocky areas, and areas near cliffs, patrolled by surf lifesavers.

"Surf lifesavers do a good job on the beach areas, but it seems like the rocky coastal areas are the next frontier in the lifesaving field."
Posted in: Asia-Pacific

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