FREE LOBSTER RODEO TO PREPARE FLORIDA DIVERS FOR MINI-SEASON
MARATHON, Florida Keys - A multi-agency safe-diving initiative designed to enhance sport diving and boating safety is to be highlighted at the second annual Lobster Rodeo & Dive Safety Expo set for Sunday, July 27.
The free event is to be staged on Knight's Key, mile marker 47 at the Seven Mile Bridge, three days prior to the July 30 opening of Florida's two-day lobster mini-season - a period that traditionally attracts large numbers of divers to the Keys.
The challenge, marine-related officials say, is that in divers' enthusiasm to catch the tasty Florida spiny lobster, many either forget or neglect to exercise proper and simple scuba diving safety measures. Failure to do so can result in diving accidents, and sometimes those mishaps can be catastrophic.
Accidents occur in shallow water with divers forgetting very basic skills, said Robert Guhl, chairman of the safe-diving initiative. Most are preventable if divers review or "refresh" skills and check their equipment functions properly.
The Lobster Rodeo combines scuba skills stations with mini-safety briefings. Skills stations vary from basic mask clearing to controlled emergency swimming ascents and weight dropping. There also are demonstrations and contests designed to hone participants' lobster-catching skills, including tickling techniques and bagging simulated lobsters.
To participate in the event's scuba activities, attendees must bring their scuba certification card and their own gear. Mini-briefings are to include safe boating skills, dive flag use, proper lobster gauging, gear demos, Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary rules and how to avoid the bends.
Participating area dive shops are to be on hand to showcase value-added dive packages in addition to information promoting safe diving. The Marathon Rotary Club plans to sell beverages.
The dive safety program is a result of a combined effort of the U.S. Coast Guard, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Monroe County Sheriff's Office and Key West Police Department marine units, Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, Florida Keys Community College, Keys Association of Dive Operators, Lower Keys Medical Center and Fishermen's Hospital.
For Lobster Rodeo details, or to download cards containing dive safety and emergency tips created by the Florida Keys Safe Diving Initiative, visit the organization's Web site at www.fla-keysdive.com.
For more information about diving, snorkeling and accommodations in the Florida Keys, visit www.fla-keys.com.