Can you scuba dive in Alabama?
Yes, you can go diving in Alabama.
Whilst Alabama does have plenty of places to enjoy both free diving and scuba diving, there is a history of murky legislation and even arrests for divers who do not follow protocol. Whilst legal entanglement is the exception not the rule, you should not be put off by this.
There’s also a lot of hearsay when looking online regarding the specifics, so I’ve done my best to compile the need-to-know bits.
This rule is both for boaters and for divers, as it ensures safety for all parties. Alabama law dictates that divers must have a flag marking their area of diving. The area marked by a diver can not purposefully be done so if the diver knows that their flag is already in a boating area, or blocking a defined boating path (and genuinely disrupting the flow of any vessels on the water).
Assuming your diver-down flag is placed within an area that is not already occupied by another diver or within a boating path, a boater cannot travel within 100 feet of you.
However, regardless of your flag, it’s highly advised you remain vigilant if diving in a vessel-heavy area of water.
For those snorkelling close to the surface, a diver-down flag via a buoy or multiple diver-down flags indicating a snorkelling area is highly recommended.
The safest approach is to have your flag displayed from a vessel, particularly in open waters (and naturally it’s likely you’ll be getting to the open waters via a vessel).
In relation to wreckage exploration permits, the law states:
460-X-12-.01 Permits. The purpose of this regulation is to provide for the lawful protection, exploration, identification, excavation, preservation, and enjoyment of non-renewable underwater cultural resources as defined in the Code of Ala. 1975 Section 41-9-290 through 299.2 which are subject to the exclusive dominion and control of the State of Alabama. This regulation applies only to cultural resources as defined in the law (41-9-291(3)), not to natural mineral resources such as raw gold or fossils.
A permit is required to dive or study a wreck in Alabama. This is in relation directly to legislation passed by the Alabama Underwater Cultural Resources Act. The law was passed concerning the safe exploration and ultimate preservation of wreckages in Alabama waters.
Whether you’re an amateur diver or are wanting to explore a wreckage as part of an archaeological study, you’re going to need a specific permit. The following of which are:
- Recreational Divers Permit
- Search Permit
- Salvage Permit
Note – Any theft of wreckage parts or intentional damage to culturally protected wreckages could lead to an arrest. Even if you have a recreational permit you cannot search or salvage a wreckage without the appropriate permit and level of clearance.
What does the law say?
The state is likely to fine and divers not adhering to safety protocols, and particularly any divers who are attempting to explore wreckages without the proper permit.
Your best option is to obtain the correct permit if you know you’re diving for anything other than scuba diving or shallow free diving.