MP calls for compulsory lifejacket law

Tim Edmunds and Nick ButterlyAlbany Advertiser
Samuel Roth.
Camera IconSamuel Roth.

Albany MP Peter Watson has called on his Government to support the introduction of legislation which would make it mandatory for rock fishers to wear lifejackets.

The death of Albany man Sam Roth at The Deep on Monday was the sixth rock fishing death on the south coast in the past four years.

The drowning comes a week after Deputy State Coroner Evelyn Vicker recommended that lifejackets be made compulsory for rock fishers across the State after a coronial inquiry into three deaths off Salmon Holes.

Mr Watson said yesterday he supported the change and would be recommending to his Government and Fisheries Minister Dave Kelly that they act.

“I’ll be speaking to the minister about bringing it in and the reasons why I think we should,” he said. “We need to keep the education going but we need to get something stiffer in there just to make people aware.”

But Mr Watson raised concerns on how it would be monitored and policed, believing any legislation would need to cover all rocks, not just particular locations.

Premier Mark McGowan said he was unconvinced about the idea of making new laws requiring people to wear lifejackets when fishing.

“People go fishing everywhere. On all sorts of rocks, all sorts of islands, all sorts of beaches,” he said.

“How you define what is a dangerous situation versus a non-dangerous situation is very difficult.

“Actually legislating that you have to wear a lifejacket, I am not sure you define where people would have to wear a life jacket and where they don’t.” Albany Sea Rescue Squad has long campaigned for lifejackets to be made compulsory for anglers fishing from rocks.

The State’s peak recreational fishing body Recfishwest has previously not supported the mandatory wearing of lifejackets but is reviewing the coroner’s recommendation and might consider changing its position.

Recfishwest communications manager Tim Grose said the position of Recfishwest was “education over legislation” and he believed there had been a positive shift in anglers preferring to fish from the beach instead of rocks in recent years.

“Across the weekend I saw hundreds fishing from the beach and we have been trying to promote through traditional media and also social media where you can catch salmon safely,” he said.

Fisheries Minister Dave Kelly did not declare if he supported the recommendation that lifejackets be made compulsory, instead pointing to the WA Fishing Safety Strategy based around education and lifesaving equipment.

“Rock fishing is a dangerous activity and the State Government will look at what more it can do to stop another tragic accident like this from occurring,” Mr Kelly said.

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