With July 1 to 9 marking the National Fishing Week in Canada, the Canadian Safe Boating Council (CSBC) and the Alberta Fish and Game Association (AFGA) have teamed up together to ascertain that Albertans are safe in the water.
Both these organizations are reminding anglers that wearing a life jacket is even more important than wearing your “lucky fishing hat.” But they do share one trait – they both have to be worn to be effective!
“It’s quite plain and simple that life jackets do save lives and will keep a person floating ‘face up’ should that individual be knocked unconscious,” said Scott Kallweit, Stettler District Fish and Wildlife Officer. “The most common advice I give to people is that life jackets should be checked and replaced if they are old and worn or appear damaged in any way. They also have to be size specific for the occupants on the boat to ensure they fit properly and will function if used.”
Kallweit also reminds boat operators that they need to be aware that fishing boats and ski boats are still considered a “motor vehicle” and the consumption of alcohol is unlawful.
“Operating a motorized boat impaired is not only very dangerous, but illegal,” Kallweit added.
According to the CSBC and the Lifesaving Society, 80 per cent of recreational boaters who drown each and every year in Canada were not wearing a lifejacket or Personal Floatation Device (PFD). Most of these drownings occur in small, open power boats, accounting for 60 per cent of these preventable deaths. And a majority of these victims have been males between the ages of 19 and 35, out for a day of fishing.
CSBC further noted that many of those who don’t wear their lifejackets or PFDs believe that, since they are good swimmers, having them onboard and within easy reach is good enough. But a lifejacket stored under a seat or up in the bow will be of no help when the unexpected happens, like falling overboard while trying to net the catch.
“National surveys clearly show that more than half the recreational boats sold in Canada are used for fishing on a regular basis,” said John Gullick, chair of CSBC. “During National Fishing Week, the Canadian Safe Boating Council would like to remind all anglers not only to have their lifejacket onboard their boat, but to look after it and wear it. If you happen to fall overboard, it will give you the time you need to calm down, catch your breath, assess your situation and effect, or help effect, a rescue. In two out of three drownings related to boating, the victims were less than 15 metres from some form of safety.”
Many of today’s anglers are delighted with the models that are designed especially to suit their needs. They’re rugged, allow for full freedom of movement to cast and are constructed with lots of pockets for gear. Some even come equipped with an attachment from which to hang a landing net. When choosing their lifejacket, anglers should also check the label to make sure it is Transport Canada approved, is the correct size and fits snugly.
“You wouldn’t go fishing without putting your boat’s drain plug in, so why would you go without putting on a flotation device that can save your life”, said Doug Butler, president of AFGA.