New laws making it mandatory for rock fishermen to wear lifejackets in Port Stephens have received widespread support from industry leaders and the overwhelming majority of recreational anglers.
The law, to come into effect from July 1, 2020, will carry a $100 on-the-spot fine for anyone spotted rock fishing in the Port Stephens LGA and not wearing an Australian standard lifejacket.
The Port's fishing guru John "Stinker" Clarke said there was widespread support for the legislation for a number of reasons - not the least being safety.
"I am a strong supporter of this law as I believe that you have a greater chance of survival on the surface than under it," he said. "The rescue organisations support the move as it makes their job easier. My only question is how will the new law be policed?"
Marc Goodall, Port Stephens Council's environmental health and compliance coordinator, acknowledged that rock fishing had some inherent risks.
"Council is committed to putting safety first because the basic fact is that life jackets save lives," he said. "All rock fishers and anyone assisting them - including children in their care - are now required to wear a lifejacket.
"We understand this is a change for some people and we'll be educating our community on the new requirements."
NSW Local Government Minister Shelley Hancock announced last week Port Stephens Council had been officially declared a high-risk area under the Rock Fishing Safety Act after it opted in to utilise the laws to improve safety.
"As one of five coastal council areas to be included under the Act, Port Stephens will be eligible for grants of up to $30,000 to support implementation including rock fishing safety signage, education and awareness," Ms Hancock said.
"Tragically, about eight people on average lose their lives each year while rock fishing in NSW.
"Anyone rock fishing or helping others to rock fish along high-risk locations in Port Stephens will now be required to wear an appropriate lifejacket at all times."
Taylor Martin MLC congratulated the council for opting in to the important public safety initiative to improve rock fishing safety, especially during the busy summer period.
"Port Stephens boasts a beautiful coastline but there is no doubt we also have some dangerous rock fishing locations and the mandatory lifejacket laws will now apply in these areas from Birubi Point to Tomaree Head," Mr Martin said.
"The declaration of our council as a high-risk rock fishing area and the mandating of life jackets is a significant step towards improving recreational safety."
A moratorium on the issuing of fines will apply until July 1, 2020, to allow rock fishers to be made aware of the new rule.
Following the moratorium, anyone failing to wear a certified Australian standards lifejacket while rock fishing in declared high-risk locations will risk a $100 on-the-spot fine.
According to the 2019 Surf Life Saving NSW Coastal Safety Report, coastal drowning deaths during the 2018-19 year rose 22 per cent with 44 people drowning along the NSW coast. Of those deaths, 18 per cent were attributed to rock fishing.