Coast Guard and partner agencies to hold Lobster Mini-Season briefing

MIAMI — Coast Guard, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, National Park Service, and Miami-Dade Fire Rescue personnel are scheduled to hold a press briefing 10 a.m. Monday regarding diving and boating safety regulations for Lobster Mini-Season, at Integrated Support Command Miami.

The press briefing will also address:

* Area-specific harvesting regulations and closures.
* Resource protection guidelines.

Lobster Mini-Season, beginning 12:01 a.m. Wednesday and ending 11:59 p.m. Thursday, brings with it a significant increase in the number of boaters and divers in Florida’s coastal waters. This increase in boating activity has led to numerous accidents over the years between boaters and divers failing to exercise proper safety.

The regular season is August 6 – March 31.

The Coast Guard and its partners will be on high alert for reports of injured or missing divers and other search and rescue cases associated with the influx of boaters.

“Mini-season is a lot of fun, but can also be dangerous if everyone doesn’t keep safety at the forefront,” said Seventh Coast Guard District Chief of Staff Capt. Scott Buschman. “Unfortunately, two people lost their lives during the first 12 hours of last year’s mini-season. Therefore, the Coast Guard encourages everyone who enjoys this year’s event to make safety their number one priority and ensure they have the proper training and equipment for their level of activity as well as ensure their physical condition is up to the task. It is also important to follow all rules and regulations so that we protect our natural resources.”

A 20″ x 24″ dive flag is required to be displayed on all vessels used by divers and snorkelers. Boats must stay at least 300 feet from any boat displaying a dive flag unless at idle speed.

The Coast Guard encourages commercial and recreational divers to be properly certified through an accredited diving course and to utilize signaling devices and safety equipment as part of their gear. Scuba divers should consider carrying signaling devices to signal to the boat or other divers during a distress situation or when separated from the dive boat.

Here are some safety tips to remember before and during a dive:

  • Never dive by yourself. Ensure you have a dive plan and a diving “buddy.” There is safety in numbers.
  • File a float plan with a family member or friend. If you decide to deviate from your original intended plan, notify your emergency contact of the changes as soon as possible
  • Check your dive equipment carefully and know how to operate it properly.
  • Mark the area in which you are diving with a dive flag and a light. This is a federally mandated law and is required when divers are in the water.
  • Know the signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion, hypothermia and dehydration, as well as procedures for emergency treatment.
  • Check the local weather conditions before your dive.
  • Remember, taking all the basic safety precautions while diving can increase your chance of surviving a potential diving accident.
  • Boat operators need to be alert and aware of dive flags.
  • If you have not been Scuba diving in the past year, please ensure you are physically capable of handling ocean conditions.

For rules and regulations on the 2009 Lobster Mini-Season, contact FWC or go to http://www.myfwc.com/. For Biscayne National Park-specific regulations, go to http.//www.nps.gov/bisc, where you can download a copy of the park’s Lobster Mini-Season brochure (in English and Spanish).

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