Fewer fatalities proof that Safe Boating Program working _lowres

Advocate file photo by JOE MACALUSO A fire extinguisher, at left, and signaling devices like an air horn, signal flares and a simple whistle are items needed to fulfill safe-boating regulations in Louisiana waters. Heading in the Saturday's first day of Louisiana Safe Boating Week, boaters are urged to check safety equipment on their boats. Also needed are life jackets for all aboard and a throwable device that can be used to reach anyone in the water. The list of required items depends on length of the boat.

If the number of boating fatalities is a gauge, then 2014 could be the best year ever on state waters.

The state had no boating deaths through the first three months of the year, and is at three fatalities after the body of a kayaker was taken from Calcasieu Lake this month.

While Wildlife and Fisheries’ Enforcement chief Col. Jeff Mayne said “one death is too many,” this year’s low, and last year’s record low of 15 boating deaths, means, to Mayne and other LDWF agents, that their 20-year push in the state’s Safe Boating Program is working.

And he said it adds emphasis for the state’s Safe Boating Week that kicks off Saturday and runs through May 23. It’s part of National Safe Boating Week, a time when state agencies across the U.S. urge boaters and fishermen to complete a safety equipment checklist for their boats and to make sure all equipment on their boats is in working order.

Mayne said LDWF Enforcement agents “will be out in full force as always during the week to perform boating safety checks and driving or operating a vessel while intoxicated (DWI) patrols.”

Other reminders are that every boat needs enough Coast Guard-approved life jackets for everyone aboard, that everyone 16 and younger must wear a life jacket in a boat less than 26 feet long, and that the boat operators remain sober both on and off the water.

A 2003 state law also mandates that anyone born after Jan. 1, 1984, must successfully complete a state-approved boating education course to operate a motorboat powered by an engine of more that 10 horsepower.

The LDWF staff reported that more than 50,000 have completed the state course and that the state’s number of boating fatalities per 100,000 registered boats has dropped from 12 in 2008 to 4.9 in 2013.

Family Fish Fest

LDWF biologist/program manager Danica Williams and Julie Grunewald at CCA-Louisiana are putting out a call for volunteers to help with a new Family Fish Fest series, which begins Saturday with a kids fishing tournament at Forsythe Point Area in Monroe. After that, the series moves to south Louisiana.

Williams said the program will include stations that will cover casting instruction, fish identification, knot tying, cast netting, and fish aging and tagging. Grunewald said CCA will donate rods and reels to the first 50 kids at each event.

The remainder of the schedule includes a May 24 stop at Campo’s Marina, Shell Beach; June 7 at Myrtle Grove; June 28 at Quintana Landing at Cypremort Point; July 12 on Elmer’s Island; and, Sept. 27 at Waddill Center in Baton Rouge. The first four of the last five events have a $10 entry fee.