EACH year, a significant number of unnecessary deaths occur in and around our coast. Yet evidence shows rock fishers wearing lifejackets are far more likely to survive when swept off the rocks.
In an effort to reduce the number of deaths, Lake Illawarra Police and Marine Rescue Port Kembla have urged rock fishers to take proper precautions.
They have also asked fishers and other interested parties to make their views regarding the wearing of lifejackets by rock fishers known to the Ministry for Police and Emergency Services.
The idea that penalties should apply for rock fishers caught not wearing lifejackets has been put forward as a key point in a recent NSW Emergency Services discussion paper.
The paper, which is open to public submissions until September 30, notes Marine Area Command statistics showing eight people who drowned while rock fishing in NSW between January 1 and August 31, 2012, were not wearing lifejackets, and one person who drowned was wearing a non-standard lifejacket.
During the 2011-12 financial year, 12 people drowned while rock fishing in NSW waters, while eight drowned between July 1, 2012 and May 14 this year.
Tom Dragutinovich, public relations officer for Marine Rescue Port Kembla, said rock fishers losing their lives unnecessarily within the Illawarra was an issue that needed to be addressed.
In 2009, Honeycomb Rocks, Port Kembla was ranked as the fifth most deadly place for rock fishing in the country.
That year, two men drowned while fishing off the rocks.
In April this year, a man died while fishing off Honeycomb Rocks.
In July, a man drowned after he was swept off rocks while fishing near Fry's Cave, Kiama.
"There are a few easy steps people can take to make it a lot safer for them," Mr Dragutinovich said.
"I think some people underestimate the power of the ocean. Conditions can change in a heartbeat; within five to 10 minutes it can turn nasty."
Steps included checking conditions before going out and watching the swell for a full cycle.
Visit the website haveyoursay.nsw.gov.au to lodge a submission.