BOAT operators involved in southern bluefin tuna fishing off south-west Victoria have been flouting safety laws, according to the state watchdog which has stepped up its compliance blitzes.
Transport Safety Victoria (TSV) said it had received tip-offs that some commercial charter operators were breaching their vessel survey limits in pursuit of the prized catch.
Waterway user safety manager Paul Corkill told The Standard commercial vessel owners risked penalties of up to $51,000.
“TSV has stepped up its compliance operations off the south-west coast to ensure that commercial operators are adhering to safe operational limits,” he said.
“There is increasing popularity in the annual southern bluefin tuna fishing season for recreational and commercial charter vessels.
“We have received reports of 37 recreational boating incidents off the south-west coast for the financial year to date including 24 in the past four months. Most of these were associated with tuna fishing.
“Two were serious incidents that resulted in the loss of a vessel and the rescue of passengers/crew.
“Our message to recreational fishermen is the ocean is not a place for novices.
“If you are venturing out make sure the conditions are favourable and that your vessel and skills are up to the task.”
Mr Corkill urged boaters to travel in groups and develop an emergency procedure plan before heading off.
“Knowing what steps to take in case of an emergency can be the difference between life and death,” he said.
“It is critically important that you have access to radio communication, flares and a registered emergency indicating radio beacon (EPIRB).
“When out on the water it is strongly recommended that you wear an approved lifejacket and carry other necessary safety equipment on board.”