Florida's lobster season is fast approaching. We are all familiar with the mini season that precedes the regular season. Anyone who has participated in the mini season knows of the craziness that goes on with the volume of vessels and divers all hunting for bugs. Every year, we read of tragic events where a diver drowned, was run over by a boat or got hurt under some other circumstance while in or on the water.
What Every Diver & Boat Should Have During Lobster Season:
1. Every prudent diver will have their equipment checked by a competent dive shop. This protocol should include an inspection of the regulator, gaskets, dive computer, the tanks and buoyancy compensator.
2. Every boat should be equipped with the standard Coast Guard mandated and suggested equipment. This includes life vests, floats, flares, a first aid kit and a fire extinguisher.
3. At all times, the captain of the vessel should have a look-out assisting him in navigation, especially during many season when there are many divers in the water.
4. Every boat with divers in the water must fly a dive flag. There are two flags associated with diving operations;
a. Alpha flag: a blue and white swallow tail flag and the red flag with a diagonal white stripe. The Alpha flag is internationally recognized.
b. The typical diver-down red and white flag is recognized in Florida.
To be safe and compliant, the vessel should display both flags. The flags should at least one meter high and visible from every angle. They should also have a stiffener in them to keep the flag permanently “at attention.” A luffing or flapping flag will not be seen by approaching boats.
Remember, a captain is responsible for the safety of his passengers, including the divers. He must exercise reasonable care under the circumstances. Any failure to do so that leads to injury creates liability for the captain and perhaps the boat owner.
Those who dive from recreational dive head boats will be required to sign a release. Typically, these releases are ironclad and give the boat captains and owners’ immunity even if there are allegations of gross negligence. So, vet the dive boat operator and go with one you know or one that enjoys a stellar reputation for safety.
Please, obey the bag limits; 12 lobsters per diver in all Florida counties except Monroe, where the limit is six. Don’t take those that are too small or have eggs. To do so may result in criminal sanctions and the forfeiture of the vessel and its equipment. Make the lobster mini season and regular season fun and safe!