by Levi J Parsons
SYDNEY, March 13 (Xinhua) -- The death of a man drowned rock fishing in Sydney's north on Sunday has once again highlighted the danger of one of Australia's most dangerous past-times.
With around 68 deaths during the five years leading up to 2015, the adventure sport claims the lives of over a dozen people per year and is the Number 1 cause of coastal drownings in Australia.
SafeFishing is an organization involved in educating enthusiasts on the dangers of rock fishing and water safety and its head safety officer, Malcolm Poole, believes "Many people are not heeding the warnings."
"You have to know what you're doing. It's about being prepared," he told Xinhua.
"If you have the knowledge and the experience it's not dangerous at all."
Recently, some areas in Australia have made it compulsory to wear life jackets when fishing, however, the man who drowned on the weekend was not wearing one.
But two men who jumped off the rocks and attempted to save the man were wearing floatation devices and the pair survived after being rescued by emergency services.
Judging by this it would seem the evidence is clear, however some believe that life jackets can actually hinder a person swept off the rocks because when in large sea and breaking waves, the temptation to swim back toward the cliffs is often a fatal mistake, as the large waves can slam the person's body against the rocks.
It's usually advised to swim out to sea, away from the rocks and wait to be rescued.
Some experts claim the life jacket can make it hard to swim under breaking waves and away from the rocks.
"It's pointless having regulation, unless you back it up with the resources and the funding to deliver the messages and to change people's attitudes," Poole said.
Inexperience and a failure to prepare, is what Poole believes contributes to the high numbers of deaths on Australia's coasts, but a huge number of rock fishing fatalities are unwitnessed, making it difficult for experts and policy-makers to be entirely clear as to what the predominant risk factors are.
Dangerous surf conditions are certainly one reason, but there are many others that also contribute.
"We have noticed a number of people using short fishing rods and when you go fishing off a rock platform, it's important to use a longer rod because that pulls you back from the edge of the water and keeps you further away from the danger zone," he said.
An Australian survey suggested that two thirds of rock fishermen admitted to being washed off rocks at least once.
"Mother nature can be your friend or your enemy, rock fishing can be enjoyable or it can be disastrous," he said.
"If the hair on the back of your neck stands up, then move on. It needs to be safe to fish."