According to research conducted by the RNLI***, only 10% of shore anglers wear lifejackets – yet an expert casualty review panel**** found that 81% of the fatalities reviewed between 2007 and 2013 could have been prevented had the casualties been wearing lifejackets.
The safety campaign, which will feature in angling press, online and in participating angling stores, advises: ‘Don’t be an amateur – wear a lifejacket’.
Colm Plunkett is one of those who chose to wear his lifejacket – a decision which ultimately saved his life after he was swept from rocks while fishing at Dursey Island in County Cork in August this year. He recounts:
‘I was fishing when a rogue wave washed me into the sea. I spent the next 55 minutes fighting for my life. Fortunately I was with my 16-year-old daughter, who immediately called the Coast Guard. Upon entering the water my lifejacket automatically inflated and kept me on the surface of the sea.
‘For the first 15 to 20 minutes I was swept by the current out to sea. I spent 30 minutes or so fighting to get air into my lungs while spitting sea water out of my mouth, as the waves broke over my head and the water ran down my face. Much to my relief the current then pushed me back towards the land and to calmer waters. My state of exhaustion and oncoming hypothermia prevented me from reaching the shore but my daughter shouted to me that help was on the way and, for the first time my spirits rose. After 10 minutes the inshore rescue boat from Derrynane, County Kerry, reached me. I was brought to shore with a life-threatening low temperature and was taken to hospital by helicopter for further assessment and treatment.
‘I am here solely because I wear a lifejacket. Fishermen don’t usually wear lifejackets, they think they are invincible. If you are not wearing a lifejacket you are as good as dead.’
There are some simple steps anglers can follow to keep themselves safe:
• If fishing from the shoreline, wear a lifejacket.
• Tell someone where you’re going and when you expect to be back.
• Carry a means of calling for help.
The RNLI is also running a retail ambassador scheme to help spread these vital safety messages. The scheme is designed to reach anglers in angling shops, at the point when they’re thinking about their activity, so safety will be front-of-mind as they head out to go fishing. Participating stores will be helping to deliver safety messages through information packs and stickers. They will also be displaying ‘ambient’ pieces in store, such as concrete t-shirts, which make the point that, if you fall into water fully clothed and without a lifejacket, the weight of your clothes could drag you down.
The campaign forms part of the RNLI’s work to halve the number of accidental coastal deaths by 2024. For more information see www.rnli.org/angling.
* Records from the National Water Safety Forum’s Water Incident Database (WAID) 2010–2014. RNLI has analysed the data using GIS software to plot and analyse incidents before inclusion in a specific coastal dataset (accident and natural causes only).
** RNLI incident data.
*** Coastal anglers – audience profiling, RNLI research summary.
**** UKSAR MCA fatality reporting for the Lifejacket Panel Review.
For more information, please contact Katie Sands, RNLI Public Relations, on 01202 336497 / Katie_Sands@rnli.org.uk or RNLI Press Office on 01202 336789 / firstname.lastname@example.org.