South coast youth lead the charge towards rock fishing safety
Sparked into action after the tragic deaths of three fishers earlier this year, an Albany youth group has declared that wearing a personal flotation device (PFD) while rock fishing is a not negotiable.
Avid rock fisher Chris Dickson, 24, says two recent incidents changed the behaviour of himself and his fishing mates.
"A lot of us used to have them [PFDs] but never used to wear them while we were fishing, they'd always just be in our backpack or sitting in the rocks next to us.
"They're basically useless sitting in your bag when a freak wave comes past," says Chris, who tells of dangerously close calls experienced by himself and others.
"My brother spent 45 minutes in the water trying to get out one day.
"He slipped in. Just went a little bit too close to the edge one day and slipped in, spent 45 minutes in the water before we managed to get him out.
"Cuts, bruises, everything like that.
"The only reason he made it out was because we managed to get a PFD out to him. He wasn't wearing one at the time."
Chris says his brother immediately got himself a PFD following this incident, and that he also has had a narrow escape or two.
Escapes like this bring home the message that the South Coast of WA is unpredictable and dangerous.
"I've had a couple of close calls where waves have just come out of nowhere," says Chris.
"Dead calm days, fishing two or three metres above the water line, the rock is completely dry, we're doing all the right things.
"Then just out of nowhere a wave has just bounced off a headland wrong and then came up and went straight over where we are fishing and I've just grabbed on to a rock and managed to hold on."
Pushing for change
Chris says social media is helping spread the safety message through the sharing of fishing photos that include PFDs.
He says there seems to be some traction with other fishers following suit.
"A couple of local shops have pretty well sold out and they don't have any more on the shelves.
"So that is obviously a good sign, they're obviously getting bought by people.
"We're just trying to do something positive and while we are at it push everyone else at the same time to do the right thing and get one on."
And a message to those that still resist?
"You're not really helping anyone. If you do go in, you've got nothing to save you and it's just downright dangerous."