Amid setting dates for the duck and goose seasons and opening days for the fall inshore shrimp season during Thursday’s Wildlife and Fisheries Commission meeting, a state Enforcement Division agent will report on agents’ July activities across the length and breadth of our beloved state.
Citations and written warnings will be listed along with the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries use of its aircraft. Then, attention will turn to the boating report.
That’s when all that’s good about all the opportunity on the water we have in our state will turn ugly: July was a bad boating month. Accidents and deaths made headlines. At least two young folks will be among the boating accidents with asterisks marking them for special attention.
Those little stars indicate fatalities, and it’s rare when those brief reports of fatal boating accidents indicate the victim or victims were wearing life jackets when bodies were recovered.
Several years ago when then-Lt. Col. Charlie Clark was the state’s Safe Boating Administrator - Clark was Enforcement’s second in command - he launched an awareness program that eventually led to a state law requiring youngsters 12 and younger to wear life jackets when the boat was underway.
“Yes there are times when a (boating) fatality isn’t from drowning,” Clark said. “Most times it’s not. We have amazing statistics showing that if people will just wear a PFD (personal flotation device), we’d avoid lots of fatalities in boating accidents.”
National numbers run somewhere between 70-80 percent of boating fatalities in any year can be traced to folks who were not wearing life jackets. After looking at this year’s first six months, Louisiana’s boating fatalities are at or greater than the national norm.
We can do better.
While it’s almost impossible to have no boating accidents, and impossible to avoid fatalities, we can make sure people wear life jackets.
OK, so any law mandating everyone in a boat wear a life jacket likely will fail - it’s similar to the almost constant debate about mandatory helmets for motorcyclists - we should turn to our wives and mothers for their personal regulations that surely would supersede anything our state Legislature could hammer out.
If wives and mothers demand life jackets be worn, imagine the hell there would be to pay if mom finds out her child wasn’t wearing one during any part of a freshwater or saltwater fishing trip or boat ride down the river.
Come on all you moms, take up this cause. It’s you who can make a difference now. You could make enough of an impression that your sons and daughters would demand the same when it comes to their children, your grandchildren. Who knows where your influence might stop? Your insistence could lead to generations of folks much more aware of how life jackets save lives.