Crab fishing is becoming more popular, particularly at Northland beaches such as Uretiti and Waipu, where there have been three drownings since 2011. In an effort to prevent further loss of life WaterSafe Auckland joinedcrab fishing yan li forces with Surf Life Saving Northern and the New Zealand Police, establishing the Crab Fishing Safety Project. The following story, as told by fisher Yan Li in how own words, illustrates the impact of such a collaboration and delivery.


I always wanted to thank you for the Safe Crab Fishing event that WaterSafe Auckland, Surf Life Saving and NZ Police organised. I thought the safety guidance, advice and support are crucial to keep safe. So I used any opportunity to spread these safety advice, but before yesterday, these safety advice was just advice, till I saved a man’s life. I would like to share what happened to you, hope this story could help more people to stay safe and help others.Yesterday (08/02/2016), I went to Waipu, Marsden Point, to catch crabs with my friends (I don’t need more people, but as you said “never go alone”. I decided to bring more people). Before I go, I have checked, the weather would be fine, low tide would be at 13:09, swell would be 1~1.5 m. I have arrived Marsden Point around 13:15. There were lots of people already, around 100~200. I placed crab nets nearly 30~50m from shore.

At the beginning, the wave feels fine, but getting higher and higher. The first catch was very good, got around 40 carbs from the first catch. Waves got higher around after 14:00, when I think back. At that point of time, when people were having fun, nobody noticed waves were getting higher. When I tried to retrieve my friend’s crab net, I felt very strong pulling power from the sea and first time felt the offshore wave that you have mentioned many times. It was very difficult for me to swim back with the crab net. I soon decided to let it go and swim back, waves were very strong, push me very far away from where I was. I knew there was a sudden drop area, so I place the crab net far away from there, but I have been pushed to that area by waves just in a few seconds. I tried to swim so hard, the best I can do was remain my old position.Thanks for the recommended life jacket (with collar), I was very confident and calm enough to check my direction. People would get bit disoriented when waves keep hitting their heads. Because I have confidence on my equipment, I have time to calm down and make right decisions, instead of too panic then just struggle for life. I chose backstroke style to swim, so I can take advantage from waves. Waves actually pushed me heading to shore at them same time I would not be pulled by offshore wave beneath the water.  On my way back to the shore, I saw a man without life jacket stuck in the sea. I knew for my situation, I was not able to help him, so I yelled him “hang in there, I swim back, call for help.” P.S. You were right, when people are drowning, they cannot call for help. I spent a few minutes to swim back. Then I told the drowning man’s friends to help him, his friends approached him and saved him later. I decided not go too far anymore.Around 16:15 I saw another man (with life jacket no collar, I will call him man B, I didn’t ask anyone’s name) stuck in the sea. He had stuck at the same spot struggling for 5-10 minutes, till people were aware of he was in danger. I approached the man was just saved (the man has no life jacket, I will call him man A), told him “your friend is in danger, we need to help him.” He asked me “can I borrow your life jacket”. “Of course” I said, “call more of your friends, don’t go by yourself, I will grab my rope. We do it together.” On the way to take my rope, I told my friend to call 111.

After your safety event, when I prepare equipment as you required, I thought it is no harm to buy a 50m rope just in case I may use it to rescue someone or myself. Then I tied my rope to the back of my life jacket, gave it to the man A. I held the end of the rope with 2 other men. Man A tried to approach the man B, after a few minutes swimming against waves, he swam back, “I got cramp” the man A said. I asked him to secure the rope with me, changed another man (man C) to put life jacket on, jumped into the sea to save man B. Man C has managed to reach man B, but the best they can do was holding each other in waves to maintain their old position, but we were not afraid anymore, because this time we have a rope to connect us. They won’t be flushed to offshore. Three of us stood on shallow sea started pulling the rope. Man B was finally back to land.

I hope above story could make people safer. During this thing, one of my friend (Chinese speaking) tried to contact 111, but she had difficulty to describe the geographic location. It is kind of impossible to give GPS coordinate. I suggest some governmental unities could give a serial number to high risk beaches and put a sign on the beach. This will help the police call centre pinpoint location quicker and people who call 111 easier to describe location. If certain number of emergency calls were for one location, or people died at this location, someone give this location a serial number and make a big sign with the SN and how many people dead here. It will be easier to describe a geographic location.

PS: these men in risk were from South East Asia, I didn’t ask which country. I didn’t ask they names, neither took any photo, as it may make other people feel bad. I didn’t jump into the sea, because these people were panic, they were about to jump into the sea together to save the man. I thought it is better that someone could organise the rescue.

Yours Sincerely

Yan Li

Crab fisher, Member Asian Safety Patrol (NZ Police) and Interpreter,Crab Fishing Safety Project (WaterSafe Auckland, Surf Life Saving New Zealand, NZ Police)