Be safe on the water

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After a year of waiting for many, we’re now a week into the annual food fishery. Friends and families have been out getting their fish all around the province, dropping their lines in hope of a cod.

Sadly, we’ve already had two drownings linked to the fishery — the first on the opening day, July 20.

On that Saturday, a 51-year-old man drowned near Bonavista.

He wasn’t wearing a personal flotation device (PFD).

Neither was a 69-year-old man who drowned in the Clarenville area.

He was in the bay, headed out to go fishing, when the boat overturned, according to police.

The tragic irony is National Drowning Prevention Week started the same day as the first round of the recreational cod fishery opened — July 20.

Running until Saturday, the week has seen reports and reminders on boat safety issued by the provincial branch of the Lifesaving Society (www.lifesavingnl.ca) and other groups.

It must be a frustrating week for the people who work to get the message out. Every year they urge people to wear a PFD if they’re on the water — any water. And every year, people don’t and people drown.

The statistics are clear — in close to 80 per cent of all water-related deaths in this country, not wearing a PFD is a contributing factor.

According to the society, so far this year in Newfoundland and Labrador there have been seven water-related deaths — all men and all over 35.

The continued push by groups such as the society, the Red Cross and others to promote the use of PFDs is having an impact.

It’s rare today to see children headed out to catch a cod while not wearing a PFD.

Their older boatmates, however, are often a different matter.

All of us probably know people like them: the father who insists he’s never worn a life jacket in all his years on the water and he’s not about to start now; the uncle who won’t wear one because it looks foolish; the brother who won’t because its cumbersome and, besides, he can swim like a fish.

Look on Facebook, look on The Telegram’s website and there are countless pictures sent in by people enjoying the food fishery.

It’s good to see how many of them are wearing a PFD. It’s sad to see even one who isn’t.

Because it’s an easy fix.

Put on the PFD — save your life, or at the very least dramatically improve your chances should the worst happen and you end up in the water.

Especially now, with the food fishery in full swing. There are more people out on the water now than at any other time. For many of them this is the only time of the year they’re out there. For some it’s the first time; for others it’s a regular thing.

And they all have one thing in common — none of them expect to end up in the water.

That’s where the PFD comes in. Think of it as wearable insurance — with no annual premium and the best benefit there is — your safety.

The first round of the food fishery continues until Aug. 11. The second round is coming up in September.

One drowning during it is too many, and we’ve already had two. Nobody wants to see any more.

So, play it smart. Put on a PFD and go get your feed of fish.

It will taste just as good.

Organizations: Lifesaving Society, Red Cross

Geographic location: Clarenville, Newfoundland and Labrador

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