November 26 - December 2, 2023: Issue 607


Surf Life Saving NSW’s Gone Fishing Rock Fishing Project Report 2023 Released: Insights From The Dee Why Workshop

More than 45 community groups, 90 languages of origin, 1,080 life jackets and nearly 20,000 people reached directly or otherwise – these are the numbers behind Surf Life Saving NSW’s Gone Fishing initiative, a report into the ground-breaking safety education program has revealed.

An initiative made possible with support from the NSW Government through the Department of Primary Industries, Gone Fishing is a practical program designed to better educate rock fishers on the safety measures and skills that can make the popular pastime a whole lot safer.

During the 2022-23 Surf Life Saving season, 10 coastal safety sessions were hosted at locations across NSW, including Dee Why, North Bondi, Shellharbour, Port Kembla and Port Stephens. In all, 3,737 people were directly educated through these sessions and various associated media, video packages and factsheets, while 18,300 are estimated to have been reached in all as a result of the program.

Importantly, of the people educated, 70 percent spoke a language other than English, 98 percent had worn their new lifejackets while rock fishing after attending a session, and 95 percent of those who attended learned new information about safety – a clear illustration of the program’s impact on at-risk and Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) communities.

“People tend to associate Surf Life Saving with only volunteers on the beach and swimming between the flags, but our educational reach extends much further than that,” SLSNSW CEO, Steve Pearce said.

“Programs like ‘Gone Fishing’ are vital for our at-risk communities to learn valuable skills and be able to better understand the dynamic nature of the ocean and the dangers involved with rock fishing and how to ensure you protect yourself and your family.

“We’re very excited to see the positive results of these workshops, and even more encouraged by the anticipated ripple effect this will have both within these communities and on our coastal drowning statistics.”

In NSW from July 2021 to June 2022, 11 people lost their lives while rock fishing. For the same period in 2022-23, 6 people lost their lives while rock fishing.

Participants of the program heaped praise on its structure and informative nature.

“In Pakistan, we don’t have a lot of coastline there, so coming to Australia six months ago,  I’ve seen a lot of people fishing and I wanted to learn more, as safety is the first thing that comes to mind when you start a new hobby. It was a very informative session and I learned a lot and I’m looking forward to starting rockfishing,” Little Bay workshop participant Amna Awan said.

“Courses like this should be frequently happening, to help people in the community to build up their confidence, because safety is the priority for everyone,” Keyur, a North Bondi workshop participant from Parramatta agreed.

“We know we have had a positive impact on at-risk communities and hope this continues to be reflected in our coastal drowning toll moving forward,” Steve Pearce reiterated.

The Dee Why Workshop, held Saturday 11th of March, 2023, had over 200 participants from around the region, with many participants speaking languages including Mandarin, Cantonese and Bengali. It was really great to see such a diverse group of participants who all had a keen interest in rock fishing and safety. We also welcomed many families with children who were able to enjoy the play area and learn more about beach safety and meet our lifesavers. 

Some children also joined some of the sessions with their parents to learn more about rock fishing safety and staying safe by the water. 

The event started with a workshop with experienced presenters from our partner organisations and experts from Maritime NSW, Team Kingies, Spyros Vasiliades from the Australian Land Based Anglers Association and experienced fishermen Amr Sheiba. 

They all gave informative presentations to share their knowledge of rock fishing and safety. In the afternoon Northern Beaches Council Lifeguards showed us an amazing rock fishing safety demonstration. 

Participants could watch a rescue demonstration and see just how lifejackets work in a real-life dangerous situation. Participants also learned the importance of choosing the right size lifejacket for survival.

The coastal safety sessions formed one of the key components of the project. These whole day sessions were run on the coast at high-risk rock fishing locations. In these sessions, participants attended workshops and practical observation sessions before being fitted with a lifejacket at the end of the day.

Number of Lifejackets handed out; 914 - lifejackets were handed out across the coastal rock fishing safety sessions, 105 were handed out at the Dee Why Workshop.

SLSNSW records show that 1,722 people attended the coastal rock fishing safety sessions.

Dee Why - from SLSNSW-Rock-Fishing-Project-Report-2023

Attendees to the Dee Why Workshop stated:

"Before I came here, I didn’t know much about swells or waves or tides. I fished for a very long time but I thought I knew everything. I now know that I knew nothing.

All staff were fantastic and the information was very very useful. Thank you for doing this for us"

“Was very great day. My family enjoyed it very much as well as me and I learnt a lot of new information on swells and winds.

“Everyone was so nice and we felt very welcomed.”

During the online registration process, participants were asked a range of questions to assist in both the logistical planning of the day and to provide more insight on participants. An overview of participants attending the Dee Why session showed that 93 % of all participants identified as being born in a country other than Australia, 95% spoke a language other than English and 100% had parents who were born overseas.