California Lobster Season Opens Saturday; SCUBA Safety Tips
At 12:00 a.m. on October 3, the Southern California sport lobster hunting season opens. Each year, hundreds of divers sit on the beach in the dark checking their watches awaiting the stroke of midnight. We spoke with Werner Kurn of Ocean Enterprises in San Diego and asked about some safety tips for lobster divers.
Here’s a quick overview:
Have a “BEACH BUDDY”: Lobster hunting is usually done at night. Divers should prepare accordingly, Kurn says. “We remind everyone to be familiar with where they are diving and to have a “beach buddy” on the shore. There are no lifeguards on duty at night, so you have to make sure you have a plan in case something goes wrong.”
Be Prepared: The old Boy Scout motto holds true here. Many lobster divers aren’t regular divers, so equipment may not be in good functioning order. Kurn advises lobster divers to have a backup light, recently serviced equipment and a good dive knife. “In the California waters, you often encounter kelp or fishing lines. Since lobster dives are usually at night, it’s more important than ever for a diver to carry a knife.”
Use Good Judgement: Often lobsters congregate in coves and areas that aren’t frequented by swimmers or divers. Lobster hunters need to be familiar with where they are diving to avoid accidents or unforeseen hazards. “We’ve seen divers in boat entry canels, harbors and other places. Boaters aren’t watching for divers, and accidents can certainly happen,” Kurn said. “We advise divers to use safe judgment when selecting a site.”
Trust Your Buddy: If there’s ever a time to trust and communicate with you buddy, it’s during a night dive. Savvy pros work together to make sure both divers bag their limit without risk but with plenty of reward. Example: Ocean Enterprises advises dive buddies to go after lobsters as a team. One diver spots a target and the other watches, then the roles are reversed. “Since it’s so easy to get separated, we suggest divers communicate frequently,” said Kurn.
Don’t CHEAT: Commercial operators invest a lot of time and money placing traps on the bottom. Every year, divers try to be sneaky and “cheat” Kurn points out. “It’s illegal for divers to simply touch a trap, let alone try and take a lobster out. We advise divers against this because it’s not only expensive if they get caught, but it’s also potentially dangerous for the diver.” He said divers risk getting caught in the traps themselves or tangled in ropes or other devices.
Keep things in PERSPECTIVE: Lastly, Kurn echoes the sentiment of others in the dive industry regarding lobster diving – it’s just a lobster. Often in their zeal to score that elusive dinner entrée, divers forget common sense and do dangerous things. “It might be tempting to go after that lobster under the ledge, but it’s not worth it.”
Ocean Enterprises is offering a variety of SCUBA lobster hunting programs. Go to www.OceanEnterprises.com for more details.