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Posted by Ken Kurtis on September 30, 2016 at 10:37:57:

Every year I struggle with how to write this to get your attention so Iím going for the morbid this year. Yes, itís that time of the year again when lobsters fear for their safety but sometimes divers disregard their own safety in the pursuit of the crustacean.

Lobster season begins at 12:01AM on Saturday, October 1. Many divers will plan on going out on boats Friday night so they can hit the water right on time, and then stay up all night doing two or three dives. Couple the excitement of lobster-hunting with a lack of sleep in - in some cases - a return to the water after some months of inactivity, and youíve got a recipe for disaster. So while we wish you well in your lobster pursuits (although, truth be told, weíre rooting for you to have many close encounters where you get the thrill of the chase and the lobster doesnít suffer the agony of defeat . . . or de boiling pot) we also hope youíll take in some common-sense safety practices as well.

Every year, we get at least one fatality or close call on opening weekend. Many years, there are multiples. In 2014, there were FIVE fatalities in the first week of lobster-hunting. Each year for opening weekend, our Catalina Hyperbaric Chamber goes on alert of sorts, with a heightened awareness that they may be called into action. (Theyíve also put out their own list of reminders, which you can access on their Facebook page.) Here are some suggestion we have . . .

Most importantly: WATCH YOUR AIR - Too often, divers get so engrossed in the hunt that they forget to watch their air and run out. If thereís no buddy nearby (frequently the case), this then requires an emergency exhaling ascent, which is likely something you havenít practiced lately, which often results in a embolism, which can prove fatal. Just keep an eye on your air, donít run it too low (certainly not under 500psi), and donít get so focused on lobsters that you forget about you.

LOBSTERS ADD WEIGHT - I donít mean youíre getting fat. but I mean if youíre successful and you bag (literally) two or three lobsters on a dive, itís like adding weight to your belt. This will increase your air consumption, it will make you need to add air to your BC, and it will make your kick back to the shore or boat a little harder. Be aware of all of that and pace yourself accordingly.

TAKE TURNS - Hereís a novel concept: Dive with a buddy and take turns as to whoís the hunter and whoís the safety diver. On the first dive, one hunts and the other is spotter/safety for the entire dive. On the next dive, switch roles. Chances are youíll do just as well - maybe even better with two sets of eyes - and now youíve got a second person on safety watch. This doesnít mean you can turn your brain off, but it hopefully means that mistakes that could lead to a fatality are less likely to occur.

TAKE A NAP - Hunting lobsters is tiring. Stayed fueled up by eating something between dives. Stay hydrated (since breathing dry air will dehydrate you). And take a nap between dives so youíre somewhat more rested when you go back in at 4AM.

LEAVE SOME FOR THE NEXT GUY/GAL - Just because the daily bag limit is 7, it doesnít mean you have to take 7. Take what you can consume and leave some behind for another day.

SKIP THE DIVE IF YOUíRE NOT 100% - Lobster hunting is an arduous task and can be all-consuming. If youíre not 100%, sit the dive out until youíre really ready to go. And when youíre doing a pre-dive self-evaluation, be very honest with yourself. As I like to say, you never get hurt on a dive you donít make.

Good luck if youíre a hunter and, as the Chamber said (quoting Sgt. Phil Esterhaus from Hill Street Blues): ďLetís be careful out there.Ē

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