Fishing safety plea

By Chris Thomson | posted on March 29, 2018

TWO Easters since Perth fishermen Chunjun Li and Jiaolong Zhang were swept to their deaths in massive seas at Albany’s Salmon Holes, a State Coroner has recommended that rock fisherman be compelled to wear life jackets and carry EPIRB devices.

In a report released this week, Deputy State Coroner Evelyn Vickers found Mr Li’s death on April 18, 2015 was “consistent with drowning” and Mr Zhang’s demise on the same day was “likely due to drowning”.

“The loss of Mr Li and Mr Zhang to their families is irreversible,” Ms Vickers concluded.

“They had come to Australia to start new lives and experience the lifestyle and opportunities available here.

“Unfortunately, it ended in tragedy and I extend my sincere condolences to their families and communities for their loss.”

During the inquest into the men’s death, Ms Vickers heard Mr Li, then 42, and Mr Zhang, 38, had a rope each, which they tied around their waists with the other end tied around a large rock.

The men did not use anchor points set in the rocks, and were not wearing life jackets.

Mr Li’s father, who was holidaying with his son in Albany, told Ms Vickers that Mr Li and Mr Zhang had been fishing for a very short time before they were swept from the rocks into the Southern Ocean.

Another witness, Hau Pam Pau Laiteng, said the rope the men used became dislodged from the rock before they were swept into the ocean.

Water Police Sergeant Michael Wear told Ms Vickers rock fishing was recognised as the most dangerous sport in Australia, but not one fisherman who has died at Salmon Holes over the years was wearing a life jacket.

Ms Vickers noted there was little doubt the men’s chances of survival would have increased had they been wearing life jackets.

Jim Allan, who owns Albany Rods and Tackle, said he provided life jackets free-of-charge to anglers who needed one, but that his offer was rarely taken up.

Ms Vickers recommended that life jackets and EPIRB devices be made mandatory for rock fishermen in Western Australia.

She also recommended that Telstra be asked to install a mobile phone tower on Eclipse Island to assist communication around Salmon Holes, and the certification of competent drone pilots be promoted within search and rescue organisations.

“On behalf of all those who risk their lives and emotions in these tragic circumstances, please wear life jackets,” Ms Vickers concluded.

“It may not always save your life, but it will help return a better outcome to your families and the community as a whole.”