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DLNR pilot project focusing on diver safety


The Department of Land and Natural Resources is conducting a pilot project to improve diving and boating safety in Hawaii waters this summer.  

“To help increase public awareness of safety rules concerning divers and the use of dive flags, DLNR will be giving away dive flags that meet state requirements during the summer months of June, July and August. We will also be placing informational fliers in small boat harbors and dive shops statewide,” said Laura H. Thielen, DLNR chairwoman.  

“In recent years, DLNR has been alerted to cases in which vessels are running over dive flags while at cruising speeds. Boaters should be on the lookout for dive flags and steer well clear of them,” she said.

Divers also have the responsibility of marking their dive locations, Thielen said.

“Dive flags can sometimes be difficult to see in rough seas. It is very important for vessels operating in our waters to designate a lookout whenever possible,” she said. “This will help vessels avoid divers in the water, and also whales, dolphins, turtles and other marine life and large floating objects.”

The flags are being given away in random, weekly drawings to Hawaii residents.  

Anyone wishing to enter the drawing for these free dive floats may send a postcard or index card in an enclosed envelope with their contact information (phone number and e-mail address) and mailing address to: Dive Flag Drawing, in care of the Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation, 333 Queen Street, Suite 300, Honolulu, Hawaii, 96813.  

Interested parties may enter as often as they wish.  Limit one dive flag per person. Winners will be notified by phone or e-mail. DLNR employees and their dependents are not eligible. 

The dive flags are being paid for through a grant from the U.S. Coast Guard which all states receive as mandated by law to provide boaters with safety equipment and educational information. No state funds are being used.  


Divers are required by law to use a dive flag when diving or swimming underwater in navigable waters of the state.  Divers are also required to surface within 100 feet of their flags while in open waters and within 50 feet of their flags in navigable streams.    

A dive flag is a red flag, measuring not less than one square foot, with a white diagonal strip running from the upper left hand corner to the lower right hand corner.

The flag may be attached to a float or mounted on the highest point of a vessel being used as a platform up to 16 feet in length and visible from all directions. Vessels over 16 feet must display a 20”x24” dive flag along with a blue alpha flag mounted at the highest point of the vessel and visible from all directions. An alpha flag is a blue flag with a white horizontal strip running from the upper left side to the lower left side. It is the international signal for a diver down.  

All vessels (boats and personal watercraft) are prohibited from approaching within 100 feet of a displayed diver’s flag in open waters and 50 feet in a navigable stream unless conducting SCUBA, snorkeling, or free diving activities. These vessels may approach within the restricted area of a dive flag at a speed of slow-no-wake.

Failure to employ a dive flag and violating the no-approach/slow-no-wake zone around a dive flag is punishable by up to six months in prison and/or a fine of up to $1,000.

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