Alaska (AK) Diving Laws

By submitting your email you agree to receive communication from Forty Meters. We promise not to spam you, and you have the ability to unsubscribe at any time.
Alaska (AK) Diving Laws

Can you go scuba diving in Alaska?

Yes! You can go scuba and free diving in Alaska, however there are laws and aspects that you need to be aware of. Do not let them put you off though… take a look at what you need to brush-up on in this breakdown and then get diving in some of the most incredible cold-water diving spots, ever!

 

Experience and certifications

You do not need to be certified or experienced to go scuba diving in Alaska. All that is required is for you to know how to swim, have access to aqualung equipment, and you are physically able to descend underwater (no mobility issues).

If you want to dive beyond the shore limits, then you need to have a PADI (the world’s largest scuba certification agency), NAUI, or NASDS* classed certifications.

*NASDS is the National Association of Scuba Diving Schools. As far as I can tell their certificate is only accepted in the USA and Canada.

As an extra step you could look into getting a PADI Wreck Diving certifications. The only wreck off the coast of Alaska that is classed as challenging enough to require this certification is the HMCS Yukon.

Other legalities: Most dive shops in Alaska will ask for your Certification Card and recent photo ID. This ensures not only are you certified, but it will also be on record if there are any problems.

If you use nitrox, make sure your Alaska dive boat has a recompression chamber (and qualified staff to operate it). Make sure your dive shop is setup to provide this service.

However if you are diving from Federal lands, or Alaska native corporation lands then you do not need any sort of certifications.

Diving with the Alaska State Marine Park allows diving up to shore limits only. It is illegal to go beyond these limits unless you have a certification card.

These Alaska marine parks are:

1) Sitka Sound: The area north and south of the Columbia & Main Island

2) Turnagain Pass: Between the Homer Spit and Point Montara

3) Tuxedni Harbor: The area east of the Alaska marine highway terminal between the outer buoy line and Alaska marine ferry dock.

4) Kachemak Bay State Marine Park Boundary: From Alaska’s highest peak to Alaska’s most southerly point.

5) Prince William Sound State Marine Park Boundary: Alaska’s southernmost point (Prince Williams Sound and Alaska inside passage national parks). To Alaska’s northern most point (Matanuska Susitna Borough).  6) St Paul Island State Marine Park Boundary: The Alaska marine highway Alaska port to Alaska’s mainland.

6) Cordova Bay State Marine Park Boundary: Alaska’s Alaskan pan handle portion of the Alaska inside passage national park zone (the Alaskan panhandle region). To Alaska’s northern most point (Matanuska Susitna Borough).

7) Seldovia Bay State Marine Park Boundary: Alaska’s Alaskan pan handle portion of the Alaska inside passage national park zone (the Alaskan panhandle region). To Alaska’s northern most point (Matanuska Susitna Borough).

8) Kasaan Bay State Marine Park Boundary: Alaska’s Alaskan pan handle portion of the Alaska inside passage national park zone (the Alaskan panhandle region). To Alaska’s northern most point (Matanuska Susitna Borough).

9) Prince William Sound/Port Houghton Bay State Marine Park Boundary: Alaska’s southernmost point (Prince Williams Sound and Alaska inside passage national parks). To Alaska’s northern most point (Matanuska Susitna Borough).

10) Sitka Sound/Tracy Arm-Fords Terror Wilderness Area State Marine Park Boundary: Between the Columbia & Main Island. To Alaska’s northern most point (Matanuska Susitna Borough).

 

What does Alaska law say about scuba and free diving?

Alaska statute 11.61.130 which states that it is illegal for any person to ” knowingly engage in diving activities without first obtaining a certification card from an approved agency.”

However, Alaska has very few requirements regarding scuba diving instruction outside of the Alaska state marine park zones (which make up less than 1% of Alaskan waters).

In these situations you can go underwater by yourself and not need any sort of Alaska dive instructor or guide. This is because the only time you can legally dive beyond shore limits in Alaska is if you have your Open Water certification card (or something similar). The Alaska Scuba Diving Laws are fairly relaxed as far as Alaska dive regulations go.

 

Diver-Down Flags

Your dive flag should be displayed for every 50 feet of depth, and it’s crucial that you stick to this (based on the depth of many Alaskan lakes alone). The flag also needs to be 12 inches by 12 inches.

In addition, there is no Alaska law regarding how long a diver can hold their breath under water. So free divers are not governed by any rules about this in Alaska.

 

Snorkelling

Law states you must be at least 12 years of age to snorkel in Alaska, unless under the direct supervision of a person who is not less than 18 years old. (See Alaska statute 11.61.110 which spells out how kids can go snorkelling without an adult).

If you spot a shark while snorkeling in then there is also a law requiring you to return to the shore immediately and report the sighting to Alaskan authorities.

 

Wreck Diving

Alaska law 11.61.140 states that “No person shall disturb, remove, alter, deface or destroy any wrecked or abandoned watercraft unless authorized by the department.” This statute does not apply to wreck diving activities conducted by a marine archaeology institute with proper documentation such as Alaska’s underwater preserve (which serves to protect any sort of Alaskan shipwrecks).