Submitted by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission – Whether diving in Pensacola, scalloping in the Big Bend, lobstering in the Florida Keys or seeing the sights below the water’s surface in one of the many rivers in the Sunshine State, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) wants to remind divers to use a divers-down flag or buoy whenever they are snorkeling or scuba diving.
The divers-down symbol is rectangular or square and red in color with a white diagonal stripe. A divers-down flag displayed on a boat must be at least 20 inches by 24 inches and displayed at a high point where it can be observed from 360 degrees around the vessel. A buoy may not be used or displayed from a vessel. A divers-down flag or buoy, displayed from the water, must be at least 12 inches by 12 inches. A flag must have a wire or other stiffener to hold it open and a buoy can be three- or four-sided.
All divers must prominently display a divers-down flag or buoy in the area in which the diving occurs.
“Proper use and understanding of what a divers-down symbol means is critical,” said Lt. Seth Wagner with the FWC’s Boating and Waterways Section. “It is 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 flag or buoy 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 flag or buoy. 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,” Wagner said. “Diving without the divers-down symbol displayed or using it for reasons other than to inform of the presence of divers is unlawful.”
The flag or buoy should only be displayed when divers are ready to enter the water or are in the water. When divers or snorkelers exit the water, it must be taken down.
More information on divers-down flag requirements is available online at MyFWC.com/Boating by clicking on “Boating Regulations.”