VICTORIAN Fisheries Authority officers from Cowes have teamed up with local Victoria Police members to ensure fishers are complying with fishing and marine safety laws in and around Western Port.
Fisheries officers and police inspected 22 vessels both on land and in the water last week, resulting in two Fisheries offences related to using excess fishing lines, and attempting to take fish without a Recreational Fishing Licence.
There were also two marine related offences, involving unlicensed vessel operators and two offences for expired flares and expired Recreational Fishing Licences.
A spokesperson for the VFA said that overall, compliance relating to carriage of safety equipment by fishers was very good.
San Remo police Sergeant Bruce Kent said the joint operation was launched in response to the three recent drownings off Phillip Island.
“The emphasis is on water safety education: keeping people in line and making people think. We’ll be checking that safety gear like flares and life jackets are the correct types and within date, as well as checking fishing licences. Unless there are blatant offences, it’s strongly on the education side,” he said.
Sgt Kent said the details of every vessel checked are logged in a VFA database, with no second chances for those who’ve been warned once.
“Fines start around the $300 mark, so people are much better off spending a little bit of money on flares or batteries for the torch,” he said.
Officers are also conducting breath testing on the water.
The same drink driving limit applies to car drivers and boat drivers, and boat drivers can be charged with drink driving even when their boat is at anchor.
Sgt Kent said the partnership with VFA would be ongoing, with regular boat inspections to take place in and around Western Port and at all boat launching sites around Phillip Island up until Easter.
A 28 year old man drowned at Woolamai Beach during a swim on Christmas day. The following week, a 46 year old man drowned at the same beach, and the week after that, a 78 year old woman drowned at Red Rocks Beach, Cowes.
Sgt Kent said there would be a coronial inquest into the three deaths, which have prompted authorities to urge people to learn how to identify rips.
Safety crackdown after three Island drownings