Be ready to use divers-down flag during scallop season

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) issued a reminder last week to would-be scallop collectors to use a divers-down warning device when snorkeling or scuba diving.

The 2018 scallop season for Citrus County runs from July 1 to Sept. 24.

All divers must prominently display a divers-down device in the area in which the diving occurs.

“Displaying and understanding what constitutes a proper divers-down symbol are critical,” said Capt. Tom Shipp of FWC’s Boating and Waterways Section. “These safety devices are meant to alert boaters to the presence of people under the water’s surface and to give them plenty of room.”

All vessels must make reasonable effort to stay at least 100 feet away from a divers-down device within a river, inlet or channel. In open waters, vessels must make reasonable effort to stay 300 feet away. For safety, divers should stay within those same distances of their displayed device. A vessel that approaches closer must be fully off plane and at idle speed.

“Divers share the responsibility of boating safety with the boat operators,” Shipp said. “Diving without the divers-down symbol properly displayed or using it for reasons other than to inform others of the presence of divers is unlawful.”

The divers-down device should only be displayed when divers are in the water. When divers or snorkelers exit the water, it must be taken down.