new diver safety rules take effect
Summer is the season for snorkeling and scuba diving so boaters should keep an eye out for "diver-down" flags. But whether you are scalloping on the Nature Coast or "bug" hunting in the Florida Keys, new rules will help keep divers safe.
Effective July 1, divers and snorkelers have the option of displaying a buoy with a series of divers-down symbols (red field with a white, diagonal line) as an alternative to the traditional divers-down flag. The buoy can be three- or four-sided and must have a divers-down symbol of at least 12-by-12 inches displayed on each of the flat sides. Such a buoy should help divers, especially those in open waters, be more visible to passing boats.
Divers-down symbols displayed onboard a boat must still be a flag at least 20-by-24 inches and displayed at a high point where it is visible from any direction. Divers may still use a divers-down flag of at least 12-by-12 inches on a float when towed along with them while in the water.
Divers should also stay within the required distance of their flag or buoy — 300 feet in open water and 100 feet in rivers, inlets and channels. Boat operators should stay at least the same distances away from any divers-down flag or buoy. Boats operated within this safety zone must be at idle speed.
Scallop season opened June 28. Lobster season opens July 30. For information, go to myfwc.com.
Send news to Terry Tomalin at [email protected] or call (727) 893-8808.
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