Rock fishing has been regularly described as the most dangerous sport in Australia. While it can be
done quite safely, it has resulted in an average of 8 drowning deaths per annum in New South Wales
(NSW) alone. This trend has not significantly deviated over the past 20 years. Over this period of
time, interested stakeholders have delivered a variety of initiatives primarily to increase the use of
personal flotation devices (PFDs) while fishing, as well as promoting other safe fishing behaviours
and precautions. The results of these initiatives, both quantitative and qualitative have been mixed,
and they have had minimal effect on the average number of annual drownings.
Surf Life Saving Australia (SLSA) was contracted by the NSW Department of Primary Industries to
conduct a research review of rock fishing safety in NSW. This followed recommendations made by
the Coroner to the Department.
SLSA employed the services of the University of New South Wales, Transport and Road Safety
Research Unit (TARS) to conduct preliminary research and analysis. This study provided an
independent report to SLSA for further investigation. In summary, the aims of the research
conducted by TARS were to:
i) Review rock fishing fatalities in NSW between 2000-2010
ii) Describe rock fishing related hospitalised morbidity in NSW between 2003-2011
iii) Determine self reported exposure to rock fishing using the NSW Population Health
Survey Program (2005)
iv) Review and categorise the literature on rock fishing safety methods and programs in
terms of education, engineering, enforcement and other methods aimed at improving
rock fishing safety.
v) Survey relevant organisations and manufacturers regarding the effectiveness of a range
of initiatives aimed at improving rock fishing safety including identification of strengths
and weaknesses of each initiative.
Recommendation 1: Develop a state-wide strategic plan for rock fishing safety under any
proposed comprehensive water safety strategy in New South Wales, including the delegation of
responsibilities to key agencies, stakeholders and non government organisations, and the
development of clear objectives and key performance indicators.
1 Development of the coordinated state wide strategy.
2 Wearing PFDs and non-slip footwear (voluntary or mandated)
3 Education campaigns using safety ambassadors and targeting vulnerable groups.
4 Targeted technique and safety workshops and other media.
5 Coastal safety risk assessments
6 Public rescue equipment
7 Review, assessment and continuous improvement procedure for all interventions
10 Anchor Points
11 Hydrodynamic modelling
12 Closure or restricted access to high risk locations
13 Written Material – pamphlets, brochures, booklets
Recommendation 2: Develop, implement and assess a public education and communication
campaign, incorporated into the state-wide strategy to promote safe rock fishing practices and
support the introduction of legislation.
Recommendation 3: Legislate the mandatory wearing of Personal Floatation Devices (PFDs) while
rock fishing at coastal locations in New South Wales.
Recreational Fishing Alliance of NSW,