AN alarmingly high number of recreational boat anglers have been detected without proper safety gear in a blitz on Warrnambool’s Lady Bay and nearby open ocean.
The most disturbing incident was a family group including two children 10 kilometres from shore without enough lifejackets.
Hundreds of dollars in fines were issued during a two-day visit by Transport Safety Victoria officers recently at the end of January and start of February.
They will return to Warrnambool and other locations on the south-west coast during the next few months to reinforce the message on boating precautions.
“We were surprised at the high level of non-compliance compared with other areas we have visited,” TSV waterway user safety manager Paul Corkill told The Standard yesterday.
“In an area like Warrnambool with a strong maritime history you’d think locals would have more respect for the ocean.
“Of the 18 boats we checked half of them were non-compliant.
“We also checked eight personal water craft (PWC) and four were found to be non-compliant.
“The most common infringement for PWC users was being closer than 200 metres from the water edge and going faster than five knots near swimmers or other craft.
“This carries a $284 fine.”
Lifejackets, fire extinguishers and emergency distress signals were the main issues on fishing boats.
The penalty for not having the required lifejacket or other safety equipment is $180 and being an unlicensed operator or having an unlicensed vessel is $720.
“Please do a thorough check before heading out. It could cost you a life or a fine,” Mr Corkill said.
“There’s been a fairly strong push on the importance of having lifejackets with a couple of recent incidents where people have fallen out of boats.
“Children under 10 have to wear a lifejacket at all times in a boat and every occupant in a craft less than 4.8 metres long has to wear one when under way.
“In larger vessels up to 12 metres lifejackets must be worn at night, or when alone or if a storm is approaching.”
Some operators snared in the blitz had incorrect fire extinguishers and expired EPIRB devices.
“EPIRBs must be carried when more than two nautical miles offshore, but we advise anyone heading out in a boat to have one,” Mr Corkill said.
“Good units can be purchased for $300 and a box of four flares can be bought for $100.”
He said patrol officers would return for more south-west compliance checks.