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July 1, 2014

FWC provides guidance on enhanced boating safety legislation

Live Oak —

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) announced changes that were made by the Florida Legislature and approved by the governor to divers-down flag requirements.

House Bill 1049, by Rep. Raschein and Sen. Abruzzo, created an additional opportunity for divers to stay safe. Effective July 1, when in the water, they may display a buoy with a series of divers-down symbols 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.

Being highly visible to boaters is critical to keeping divers and snorkelers safe in the water.

“Divers should stay within the required distance of their flag or buoy – 300 feet in open water and 100 feet in rivers, inlets and channels, as that’s where boat operators are expecting you to be. Boat operators should do their best to stay these same distances away from any divers-down flag or buoy, and all boats being operated within these distances from a divers-down symbol must be slowed to no more than idle speed,” said Capt. Tom Shipp, who leads the FWC’s boating safety efforts. “This will ensure everyone gets to enjoy the water safely.”

With bay scallop season – which just opened on June 28 – and spiny lobster mini-season – which begins July 30– lots of divers and snorkelers are taking advantage of the opportunity to get in the water.

“This is a great time for boaters and divers alike to remember to pay close attention to their surroundings and be safe,” Shipp said.

For more information about the changes, the bill language can be viewed on the House of Representatives website at myfloridahouse.gov.

 

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