Safe Diving Tips During Lobster Season

BACKGROUND

Lobster hunting season attracts many divers and often results in a number of incidents and fatalities for varying reasons. Recently, five fatalities occurred within the first week of opening of the lobster season.

Case 1
A diver went into medical distress while diving and was assisted by U.S. Coast Guard responders. The diver died on his way to the hospital. Limited information is available at this time.

Case 2
A male diver entered the water at night and experienced chest pain before descending and went into cardiac arrest. Witnesses brought the diver aboard a dive boat and began CPR. The diver remained unresponsive to emergency response efforts and the cause of death is uncertain at this time.

Case 3
A solo diver of unknown certification level and experience was found by passing boaters. Limited information is known and details of the incident are being investigated.

Case 4
Three divers were lobster diving at night when a male diver of unknown certification level and experience began to struggle just below the surface. The dive buddy tried to assist the distressed diver, but was unable to keep him afloat. The boat driver sent a distress signal and lifeguards located the diver underwater, removed his weight belt, and placed him in a dive boat. The diver was unresponsive and did not have a pulse upon recovery. CPR and lifesaving efforts were administered but the diver did not recover and was pronounced dead at a hospital. Equipment issues and over weighting are being investigated as potential contributing factors in this case.

Case 5
A diver with lobster diving experience was with a group of divers hunting for lobster at night. The dive buddy signaled to the victim that he was going to surface because he was low on air. The victim signaled that he would surface with the dive buddy. However, when the dive buddy reached the surface, he realized that the victim had surfaced more quickly than he did. The boat captain heard the victim in distress before he sank below the surface. The diver's body was recovered several days after the incident. It is unclear if the victim was low on air or ran out of air, and consequently had a rapid ascent. The cause of death is under investigation at this time.

COMMENT

Diving procedures, equipment, and medical conditions will be evaluated to understand triggers and factors that contributed to these fatal incidents as information becomes available following official investigations. Following recommended safety guidelines can help decrease injuries and accidents during lobster season:

Evaluate your fitness to participate in lobster hunting.
Participation in lobster hunting requires good physical fitness. Regular moderate exercise without vigorous exercise may not prepare you sufficiently for the physical challenges that may occur during lobster hunting. Be thorough and honest when assessing your health status.

Consider the medication you currently take and if the health reasons for those medications are a major risk for injury while diving. If your health status has changed since your last dive, schedule a physical exam and discuss with your physician if your current fitness level matches the demands of diving.

Refresh skills and check equipment.
Enroll in a refresher course if you have not had the recent opportunity to use your dive skills. If you have limited experience with hunting lobster, learn how to safety dive for them. Review your gear and make sure it is up to safe standards, and become familiar with new equipment before embarking on a lobster dive.

Know the dive environment.
Lobster hunting may occur at night, so be sure you are comfortable and experienced in diving at night before doing so during lobster season. Boat traffic may be increased during lobster season, so be alert at depth and at the surface. Be familiar with the dive site and know if it poses specific safety hazards, such as kelp or strong currents.

Dive with a buddy.
Diving in pairs is advised. Review hand signals prior to descending to avoid miscommunication and plan your dive together. Stay close to your buddy throughout the dive.

Plan your dive and dive your plan.
Don't be distracted by hunting for lobster and ignore your dive plan. Avoid diving deeper than the safety limits for the sake of catching lobster and be continuously aware of your breathing gas consumption. Constantly monitor your gauges and make sure you have enough air for a recommended safety stop and slow, safe ascent.

Lobster Mini-Season PSA: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FyG6LEdBWt4
Additional Reading: http://www.alertdiver.com/LobsterDiving

~Brittany Trout