NONE of the people rescued in local waters by Mandurah Volunteer Marine Rescue Group (MVMRG) volunteers this year were wearing life jackets and now the group is calling for them to be compulsory.
But the move, being considered by the State Government as part of a review of recreational boat safety equipment, has been rejected by fishing lobby group Recfishwest who says it should be an individual choice.
MVMRG commander Ray Rudland said people would get used to wearing life jackets, just like motor vehicle drivers got used to wearing seat belts.
“I would like to see it mandatory,” Mr Rudland said.
“In Mandurah we pulled out three people from the water over Christmas and another two during this year.
“None were wearing life jackets.
“They were very lucky.”
Mr Rudland said at least with life jackets, people were safe to a certain extent.
“You just don’t know what’s going to happen,” he said.
Mr Rudland said life jackets were not cumbersome, were comfortable and many were self-inflatable.
Recfishwest chief executive officer Andrew Rowland said safety comes down to the individual and personal responsibility was the key factor.
“We encourage and promote safe fishing experiences for all and equip fishers with the knowledge so they can make their own decision to fish or not to fish and we believe this needs to be applied to vessel safety,” Dr Rowland said.
“We support increased education campaigns towards vessel owners, of the risks associated with their safety, it’s important that people have good knowledge to make their own informed decisions in specific situations.
“We do not support a blanket approach to make the wearing of life jackets on a boat mandatory.”
He said educating the boating public and empowering them to make their own choices was a better approach than making it compulsory.
The Department of Transport is conducting a two-stage consultation process that will raise key issues impacting on current and possible new safety equipment requirements.
Transport Minister Rita Saffioti said it was the first major review of recreational boat safety equipment requirements in 25 years.
“Too many families have been impacted by tragedies on local waters and this is why we need to bring the safety regulations into the 21st century,” Ms Saffioti said.
She said 25 lives have been lost due to recreational boating accidents in the past four years.
The aim of the review was to enhance the safety of people on the water without reducing the participation rate or imposing unreasonable costs on those who enjoy boating.
Safety equipment is required for the 100,000 recreational vessels registered in WA and the growing number of different types of personal watercraft, sailboards, paddleboats and sailboats in specified areas of operation.
Have your say
What: Recreational vessel safety review
When: Before July 10.
Safety equipment items under review include:
– Lifesaving appliances (survival craft and buoyancy aids such as lifejackets);
– Communication devices such as radios and distress signalling sheets;
– Navigation equipment (compasses and Global Positioning Systems);
– Equipment to extinguish or control fire;
– Miscellaneous equipment such as first aid, lighting, paddles, bilge pumps and anchors; and
– Distress signals such as emergency position indicating radio beacons, personal locator beacons and red hand held flares, red parachute rockets and orange smoke signals.