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Authorities highlight rock fishing concerns

Photo: John Borren/SunLive.

With rock-based fishing seen as one of the deadliest pursuits in New Zealand, water safety officials are urging people to know the best practise for safe fishing.

According to a statement from Auckland Council, Drowning Prevention Auckland and Surf Life Saving Northern Region, rock fishing continues to be one of New Zealand’s most dangerous pastimes.

The above organisations banded together to develop a safety project when five fishermen died off Auckland’s West Coast in 2005.

Since then, the DPA has reported an average of one rock fishing drowning per year in Auckland since the project’s inception.

Despite this, there are fears extended Covid-19 pandemic lockdowns may result in an overestimation of competence of rock fishers and underestimation of the environment.

Drowning Prevention Auckland chief executive Nicola Keen-Biggelaar says that financial hardship as a result of the pandemic could have also contributed to a recent increase in incidents on the rocks.

“We know people may be struggling to feed their families and this has resulted in more activity at popular coastal fishing sites,” she says.

“More people are gathering kai moana without following water safety advice, and it’s so important we are able to educate fishers on how to stay safe.”

After reduced face-to-face contact through various lockdown conditions over the previous 20 months, new and existing safety advisors have a tall task raising awareness, making this week’s training even more imperative.

In a study conducted by the project last year, two thirds of fishers reported they were not aware of any safety promotion in place, but trained advisers were identified as the most frequent source of information and advice for fishers.

In the same study, most fishers (86 per cent) agreed wearing a lifejacket made rock fishing safer, although less than half (40 per cent) reported often/always wearing a lifejacket, a decrease from the previous year (2020, 38 per cent; 2019, 50 per cent).

“It’s a top priority for us to reach new and experienced rock fishers around our coastal areas to reinforce our key messages that can prevent drownings throughout this busy period,” says Surf Life Saving Northern Region operations manager James Lea.

“Most important is to promote always wearing a lifejacket while rock fishing.”

Such advice that will be taught at this week’s induction includes how to recognise a drowning person, best practise to respond to a crisis, safe methods of rescue from land and revival techniques.

Drowning Prevention Auckland advice for Rock Fishers:

-Be smart around rocks.

-Check conditions. This includes swell, weather and tide forecasts as well as advice on safety signs.

-Wear a lifejacket and correct clothing. Light clothing, sturdy footwear such as sneakers and a lifejacket are essential.

-Beware of waves and swells. Always face the sea, never turn your back. Have a clear escape path to safe ground and don’t get caught by an incoming tide or large swell.

Beach Safety Messages from Surf Lifesaving Northern Region:

-Choose a lifeguarded beach and swim between the flags

-Read and understand the safety signs – ask a surf lifeguard for advice as conditions can change regularly

-Don’t overestimate your ability or your children’s ability to cope in the conditions

-Always keep a close eye on very young children in or near the water – always keep them within arm’s reach

-Get a friend to swim with you – never swim or surf alone

-Watch out for rip currents, they can carry you away from shore. If caught in a rip current remember the 3Rs: *Relax and float, *Raise your hand and *Ride the rip

-Be smart around rocks: When fishing never turn your back towards the sea and always wear a lifejacket

-If in doubt, stay out!

-If you see someone in trouble, call 111 and ask for the Police

-Be sun smart – slip, slop, slap and wrap to protect your skin and eyes from the sun’s damaging ray

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