Middle aged anglers are needlessly drowning because they failed to wear a lifejacket, British scientists warned.
Hobby fishermen aged 41 to 50 are the most likely group to drown followed by kayakers and canoeists, the ten-year period studied of deaths in UK waters revealed.
While commercial fishermen were the largest group to drown, fishing for a hobby was the deadliest when adjusted for the number of people enjoying the popular past time.
About 4.2 million people, predominately men, are regular anglers in British waters.
University of Portsmouth researchers said around a fifth of the 1,000 recorded deaths by drowning between 2007 to 2016 could have been prevented had they worn the vital bit of safety kit.
Yet Professor Mike Tipton feared the numbers could be significantly higher because some of the data collected on deaths in water are incomplete.
But one unnecessary death every two to three weeks is still far too many.
Prof Tipton said: “It is a reflection of our lack of respect for, and understanding of, water safety, and the great danger represented by water, that so many of us work and play on the water without taking the simple step of wearing a lifejacket.
“It’s a tragedy that not wearing a lifejacket can lead to a death that was easily avoidable.”
The study published in the journal Safety Science found over a fifth – 22 per cent – of the fatalities happened in commercial fishing.
Leisure angling had the second highest fatality rate, at 19 per cent.
But when the figures are adjusted to number of deaths per number of people taking part in any activity, angling topped the table as the deadliest.
Of all the deaths where a lifejacket would have saved people, the majority of four fifths – 79 per cent – were men.
Professor Tipton said: “People do not wear lifejackets for a variety of reasons including a perception that they are uncomfortable, laziness, they are not thought appropriate/necessary, denial or lack of respect for the threat posed by water.”
The study used statistics from UK coastal waters gathered by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency.
They were analysed by a panel of experts, the Casualty Review Panel, which meets annually to discuss the previous year’s appropriate maritime fatalities and whether those who died might have survived had they been wearing a lifejacket.
The study noted there was 42 per cent fewer cases were referred to the Casualty Review Panel in 2016 compared to 2007.
Prof Tipton concluded: “The data generated by the CRP over the ten years has provided a unique insight into coastal deaths, it has provided a clear rationale for the use of lifejackets and has helped target national and activity-specific campaigns for water safety and lifejacket use.”
Lifejackets save lives because they keep a person afloat keeping their airway clear of the water, so they can breathe.
They also reduce the need for a person to thrash around in order to stay afloat, reduce cold shock and the strain on the heart in the first, most dangerous minutes of immersion.
US Coastguard data showed drowning to be responsible for three-quarters of all fatal boating accidents, and of those, 85 per cent were not wearing a lifejacket.
In New Zealand, 76 per cent of drowning victims were not wearing a lifejacket while in Australia, it is now compulsory to wear a lifejacket when setting out to sea.