Asian crabbers heed warnings

By Imran Ali

EFFECTIVE: A safety initiative at Uretiti Beach designed to prevent people drowning while crab fishing, which includes signs in different languages, is working with more Asian crabbers now wearing lifejackets.PHOTO/FILE
EFFECTIVE: A safety initiative at Uretiti Beach designed to prevent people drowning while crab fishing, which includes signs in different languages, is working with more Asian crabbers now wearing lifejackets.PHOTO/FILE

A life-saving initiative is having an effect on Asian men setting crab pots off Uretiti Beach, as more are seen wearing lifejackets while out in the water.

Waipu Senior Constable Martin Geddes, who started the initiative, said safety messages including signs written in Asian languages and beach etiquette were paying dividends.

"Personally, I am seeing Asian crabbers wearing lifejackets. Many probably don't learn to swim so the next best thing is to tell them to wear lifejackets which they are increasingly doing now," Mr Geddes said.

"At the same time, they are becoming a bit more mobile and probably putting themselves further out of reach but it's pleasing to know they are wearing lifejackets, which helps."

Mr Geddes said unlike previous years, Asian crabbers travelled up north right across this summer, and during the week rather than on specific dates during the festive season.

In December, Mr Geddes organised the launch of a programme of beach ambassadors and signs, which was attended by police, locals and representatives from the Auckland Chinese community.

The ambassadors' programme, which helped educate the mainly Chinese crabbers who travelled from Auckland about beach conditions, has finished.

Since 2011, three Asian men have died in the surf while setting crab pots at Uretiti.

Several crabbers have also been rescued after getting into trouble.

Mr Geddes said it was pleasing to note there were no drownings off Uretiti when the ambassadors patrolled the beach.

In his inquest report into the death of Auckland student Heng Li at Uretiti on Christmas Day 2014, Northland coroner Brandt Shortland said the message to beach users was to read the signs, translated in Chinese and Korean languages, and to use common sense before getting into the water.

He acknowledged Mr Geddes' work in working with the Asian community and his beach ambassador programme, and said the community should receive safety messages consistently over a long period of time.

"It may take a generation before it is bedded in. I remain clear in my view that there will be further drownings in the near future unless this message is heeded," Mr Shortland said.

As part of the campaign run by Mr Geddes last month, a bus brought people to Uretiti where there was a beach fun day and a crab-fishing demonstration.

The seminar covered how to net safely and the importance of lifejackets.

The beach trip offered a first-hand look at sea conditions and dangers.

- Northern Advocate

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