VOLUNTEERS and authorities will be pooling their resources this weekend to prevent a repeat of the tragedy experienced at last year’s opening day of abalone fishing.
Yanchep Surf Life Saving Club will double the number of volunteer patrolling members at Yanchep Lagoon for the one-hour fishing window on Sunday, November 3.
President John Heesters said he and another volunteer, Scott Jessamine, still found it emotional going on to the beach where they lost a 20-year-old man who went missing in the water during the first abalone fishing session last November.
However, Mr Heesters said for this weekend’s season opener they would be supported on the water by the Two Rocks Volunteer Marine Rescue Group and volunteer jetski lifesavers from the Wesfarmers Emergency Response Team.
“We are hoping for good weather – a low tide, slow winds and a low swell. We still do rescues; even on those days (but) our ultimate goal is to have no fatalities,” he said.
“We will have people on the rescue boards, we will have jet skis, we will have boats ” we will have it very well covered.”
Volunteer sea rescuer Pam Annesley will be the duty skipper this Sunday, taking the group’s rapid response rescue boat, Naiad, and two crew members out to patrol the sea west of the reef.
“We are limited in how we can respond because we can’t get onto the reef,” TRVMRG commander David Haynes said.
“They (surf lifesavers) will look after the beach inward and we will look after the sea outward.”
Surf Life Saving WA community safety manager Chris Peck said abalone fishers needed to take care to protect themselves and the volunteers patrolling the beach.
“After the drowning of an abalone fisherman last year and with an additional 36 rescues performed by surf lifesavers over the course of the fishing season, SLSWA is calling for abalone fishermen to not go beyond their own capabilities or take risks during the 2013-14 season,” Mr Peck said.
“Abalone fishers need to be aware of the water and weather conditions and wear appropriate clothing and footwear for clambering over reef tops.
“Despite the more intensive intervention measures over the last five years, abalone fishing fatalities continue to occur.
“It is time people stop putting their lives on the line and at the very least wear a personal floatation device when fishing.”
Mr Heesters said fishers should remember that surf lifesavers and sea rescuers were all volunteers who “put themselves at risk to prevent death and injury at the beach”.
“I’ve seen numerous occasions where lifesavers have put themselves at risk with the knives and screwdrivers (of abalone fishers),” he said.
Wanneroo Mayor Tracey Roberts said Rangers would work with the volunteers to patrol Yanchep Lagoon during the five-week abalone season.
“Rangers will be present on each day of the season, and if the surf life saving club makes a decision to close the beach for any reason, Rangers will enforce the closure,” Mrs Roberts said.
“The City of Wanneroo takes beach safety very seriously and encourages all people licensed to take part in the abalone season to take care and listen to any instructions given by the surf life savers on duty.”