8. Priority Area: Activities

Focus: Fishing and rock fishing

Why is this an area of focus?

Recreational fishing is a popular outdoor activity in Australia and is one of the few forms of nature-based recreation that can generally be enjoyed through all life stages, providing the opportunity to develop skills, techniques and knowledge through long-term participation. Participation rates suggest that approximately one in four Australian households consist of at least one recreational fisher. People fish from the beach, in the river, from rocks, and from boats or other watercraft.

Despite the benefits, fishing can also be very dangerous. In fact, rock fishing alone has been dubbed Australia’s most dangerous sport and is responsible for drowning deaths every year. Many boating- or watercraft-related drowning deaths occur during fishing trips. The range of recreational fishing activities highlights a number of water safety challenges and the need for diverse, multi-faceted and targeted approaches to ensure safe fishing practice.

Key data (2009/10 to 2018/19)

171 drowning deaths

Average of 17 deaths per year

0.07 deaths/ 100,000 population

Top 3 age groups

13% 60-64 years
12% 30-34 years
11% 25-29 years

Top 3 activities

71% Rocks
13% River/creek
6% Lake/dam

28% Pre-existing medical condition

94% Male

70% Rock fishing
30% Fishing

Key activities 2021-2025


  • Investigate impacts of non-fatal drowning and injury incidents in recreational fishing
  • Conduct behavioural research to understand risk perception and decision-making
  • Investigate high-risk locations and evaluate opportunities to extend service provision, including alternative and innovative technological approaches
  • Evaluate current safe fishing education programs and initiatives


  • Review current safe fishing practices, campaigns, equipment and programs
  • Review effectiveness of fishing legislation, licensing and lifejacket legislation


  • Promote lifejacket safety awareness and consistency across National, State and Territory and local levels
  • Raise awareness of safe fishing practices through multiple channels
  • Advocate safe fishing plans at blackspot locations with community and Government


  • Strengthen collaboration across National, State and Territory and local fishing stakeholders
  • Establish partnerships with peak fishing bodies to increase community-led risk management and engagement
  • Support pathways into recreational fishing and rock fishing clubs


  • Develop and implement safe fishing initiatives and programs to promote safe practices
  • Utilise education technologies to transform behaviour and perceptions of risk
  • Strengthen weather forecasting and warning systems targeted at rock fishing

Safe environments

  • Identify blackspot locations based on fishing incidents at rocks, beaches, and rivers
  • Review access to public rescue equipment at high-risk locations
  • Extend and evaluate emergency infrastructure installation at new locations


  • Develop workforce leadership programs for recreational fishing communities
  • Establish a safe fishing committee/working group to guide communication and research

Creating medium term changes in


Information dissemination


Consistent legislation across States and Territories for fishing licensing and use of lifejackets


Evidence-based safe fishing strategies at blackspot locations


Community understanding of the influence of environmental conditions


Number of people wearing a lifejacket and the use of an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB)

Targets 2030

Safe fishing legislation and equipment integrated to maximise opportunities for behaviour change

Safe fishing plans developed and implemented for key blackspot fishing locations

Drowning rate related to fishing and rock fishing reduced by 50%