Tuesday, January 4, 2011


Excerpt from U.S. Coast Guard Proceedings of the Marine Safety & Security Council magazine by LT David Ambos, Senior Investigating Officer, U.S. Coast Guard Sector Key West.

In the last week of July, the Florida Keys opens its annual lobster season with a two-day “mini-season.” This event attracts thousands of enthusiasts from all over the U.S. who dive and snorkel for lobster.

Unfortunately, during the 2006 mini-season five divers died. These incidents, along with several other dive-related deaths, raised a flag of concern at U.S. Coast Guard Sector Key West.

Although the casualties occurred on a variety of vessels and experience level varied among victims, the casualties typically fell into three categories: diver complacency, diver training/error, or pre-existing medical conditions.

The Stand Up
Identifying a need for intervention, Sector Key West staff made contact with several other state and local law enforcement agencies and created the “Dive ALIVE” initiative.

The mission: to increase the safety, health, and well-being of snorkelers and scuba divers through education. Public outreach included distributing the “Dive ALIVE” card, a quick reference that hit the streets prior to the lobster mini-season. Shown in the picture above, the safety card contains an easy-to-remember “ALIVE” mnemonic device that serves as a refresher for all divers.

Lobster Rodeo
The second major outreach effort was the “lobster rodeo,” which occurred the day before the opening of the lobster mini-season and focused on education.

The showpiece of the rodeo was the group of underwater scuba skills refresher stations, controlled by a certified dive instructor, who took each participating diver through a complete dive refresher in a controlled environment. Education ranged from simple mask clearing to buddy breathing. In the picture at left, lobster rodeo participants demonstrate the use of a hyperbaric chamber.

Additionally, participating agencies and various professional dive agencies set up information booths to pass out diver safety and environmental/reef safety pamphlets. In the picture below, representatives from various regulatory agencies answer questions, pass out safety and regulatory information, and advise rodeo attendees about lobster “no take” zones.

For more information:
Full article is available at http://www.uscg.mil/proceedings/winter2009.

Subscribe online at http://www.uscg.mil/proceedings/subscribe.asp.