Coast Guard advises abalone divers to play it safe near water

Pacific Southwest Coast Guard News
ALAMEDA, Calif. — After the recent deaths of three abalone divers, the Coast Guard would like to remind those recreating near the water to play it safe.

These deaths are a reminder of the hazards swimmers face on the Northern California Coast; the force of the Pacific Ocean should not be underestimated.

The warm weather draws crowds to beaches, and abalone harvesting is in season until the end of June. Strong currents and rip tides can occur at any time of year and, coupled with frigid water temperatures, the Pacific Ocean can be deadly even for strong swimmers. The constantly changing conditions along the coast mean that abalone divers need to study the water for several minutes before deciding if they should go in. Additionally, divers should never go alone and always use the buddy system. Divers need to be aware of bluff edges and cliffs, and the hazards of diving near kelp.

Abalone divers often use a weight belt to help them fish; divers should drop their weight belt at the first sign of trouble. Divers should also avoid rough surf, watch out for rogue waves, know the warning signs of hypothermia, and have a game plan in place for emergency situations.

“All too often the Coast Guard is called out to rescue people from the water, and three deaths in one weekend are especially alarming,” said Rear Adm. Karl Schultz, 11th District commander. “However, with the warm weather upon us, divers, swimmers, boaters, beach goers, and everyone playing near the water need to stay safe to prevent accidents from occuring.”

Water safety is everyone’s responsibility. Abalone diving is a rigorous sport; divers should know the risks of abalone fishing, and strive to keep themselves and others safe.

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