Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) law enforcement officers will be conducting a special operation called “Wave the Flag” on Saturday and Sunday, May 19 and 20. The goal of this effort is to raise “divers-down” flag awareness for both divers and boaters.
FWC officers will use laser radar units to measure the distance between boaters and divers. They will then pursue violators. Last year, the operation, which was in Broward County, resulted in 12 citations and 30 written warnings.
This year’s Wave the Flag operation will extend into Palm Beach, Broward, Dade and Monroe counties. Local coastal police departments, sheriff’s offices and officers with the U.S. Coast Guard will join the FWC in this two-day operation.
“The FWC wants to make sure that 2012 is a safe year for both divers and snorkelers,” said Lt. David Bingham. “We want to remind divers that they must properly display a dive flag, and boaters must steer clear of divers.”
While on the water, divers and boaters need to remember the following rules regarding dive flags:
Divers-down flags displayed on vessels must be at least 20 inches by 24 inches, and a stiffener is required to keep the flag unfurled. Dive flags carried on floats must be at least 12 inches by 12 inches. Also, divers-down flags on vessels must be displayed above the vessel’s highest point so that the flag’s visibility is not obstructed in any direction.
Divers must make reasonable efforts to stay within 300 feet of a divers-down flag on open waters and within 100 feet of a flag within rivers, inlets or navigation channels.
Vessel operators must make a reasonable effort to maintain a distance of at least 300 feet from divers-down flags on open waters and at least 100 feet from flags on rivers, inlets or navigation channels. Vessels approaching divers-down flags closer than 300 feet in open water and 100 feet in rivers, inlets and navigation channels must slow to idle speed.
When divers are out of the water, a dive flag must not be displayed.
The media are invited to cover operation Wave the Flag and join a ride-along with FWC officers involved in the event. Contact Carli Segelson to set up a ride-along.
For more information on boating regulations, visit MyFWC.com/Boating and click on “Boating Regulations.”