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June 2001 Vol. 16, No. 6   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Flotsam & Jetsam

from the June, 2001 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Not to worry, you’re still insured: In April, the buzz in the dive industry was that new Federal regulations would eliminate medical insurance coverage for people engaged in high risk sports. Several frantic emails were sent to Undercurrent and thousands went to Washington, D.C. The misinformation springs from a May 8 federal regulation that closes the loopholes insurers sometimes used to prevent people from enrolling in plans. It also reaffirms that insurance companies can make exclusions in group plan coverage. But the federal regulations don’t specify what to exclude or include in policies. If a health insurance company in one state wanted to exclude coverage for injuries suffered while diving, it could. But only if regulators in that state agreed. To do so in 50 states would require 50 separate approvals. Most companies and states, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, don’t exclude risky sports from medical insurance coverage. “We could, but we don’t , ” Cynthia Platonov of Oregon’s BlueCross/Blue Shield, told the Portland Oregonian. “I don’t know of anyone who does.”

Mississippi muck diving: A couple of scuba divers near a boat unloading cargo in the Mississippi River in March caught the attention of some nearby folks who called customs officials. Arriving federal agents observed two men coming from the water carrying what appeared to be diving gear. The men ran when they realized they had been spotted. The customs officials who searched the shoreline found cylindrical-shaped packages wrapped in black rubber material, with 150 lbs. of marijuana inside. The containers apparently were attached to the hull of the M/V Kopalnia Borynia, which had docked in Chalmette from Jamaica

The journalists among us: PADI’s Sport Diver magazine won a pair of awards at the prestigious 17th annual Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism Competition, which was judged by Journalism faculty from the University of Florida. It received a first place medal for Best Travel Coverage in a non-travel magazine. Brian Courtney, senior editor at Sport Diver,also earned a third place medal in the Environmental Tourism Article category for his feature story on the threats facing sea turtles. Courtney, whose story appeared in the October 2000 issue, won praise for his handling of a complex subject in a manner that “takes on life as well as substance.” Other award winners, from the 1,084 entries, included Nationa Geographic Explorer, The New York Times and Lonely Planet Publications.

Polyp Police: Park Authorities in Eilat, Israel now ban divers and snorkelers from approaching to within three feet of the coral or the bottom. Israel’s km stretch of Red Sea reef, which runs from the resort town of Eilat to the Egyptian border, has been heavily damaged by careless divers. DIVE magazine reports that a British diver was hauled out of the water when a snorkeler wrongly accused him of touching the coral. “I was pulled out of the water by park rangers, my passport was confiscated and I was threatened with an on-thespot fine. It was getting rather ugly, but I managed to talk my way out of it. The fact is that I wasn’t touching the coral. The guy who reported me was snorkeling at the surface, and his perspective was completely lost.” Park Rangers have the power to remove any diver from the water, but each dive center has its own rules for monitoring tourists.

99 bottles of beer on the bottom: After a delivery truck carrying 24,000 bottles of beer plunged into a river north of Sydney, Australia in April, there was no shortage of volunteers to help salvage the cargo. Several donned scuba gear and one man reportedly claimed 400 bottles. Although police considered it a theft, an officer said, “I doubt whether in these circumstances we’ll be chasing people for convictions.”

We thought divers were always the good guys: Quiet Half Moon Bay in Akumal, on Mexico’s Caribbean coast, is a turtle nesting ground with some nice reefs. The area, previously kept free of boats by local custom, has been embroiled in conflict since Akumal Dive Adventures (ADA), located next to the Vista del Mar Hotel, placed moorings and brought boats into the bay. According to David Pluke, a local property owner, ADA had additionally applied to build a pier to accommodate at least five boats, but withdrew it when defeat appeared certain. He also reports that two dead loggerhead turtles have been found in the bay. (ADA’s Heidi Cost says that environmental authorities have cleared ADA of any involvement.) The breaching of this informal agreement has led a small group of residents and tourists to oppose ADA’s incursions into the area, seeking official protection for Half Moon Bay & nearby Yal-ku lagoon.

Not surprisingly, ADA feels it is acting responsibly while legitimately growing its business. Cost told Undercurrent that bringing boats into Half Moon Bay violates no laws, and that their operation minimally affects the environment. She says the boats have short shaft motors, are secured in a rocky portion of the bay where turtles do not nest, and are no longer taken out after dark. They plan to set up a quick release systems for buoys to protect turtles from becoming entangled. Additionally, they plan to post signs advising tourists of ecologically sound behavior and donate 3 percent of their net income to study and for protection of the area.

Back in the driver’s seat: How often have you heard that diving is: “A lot safer than driving down a freeway, right?” Japanese researchers decided to find out. Deaths per participant were no measure of safety, they thought. A better measure would be deaths per hour engaged in the activity. In looking at Japanese diver and traffic deaths, they found the diving fatality rate to be “10.6 - 24.4 and 15.3 - 19.7 with 95 percent and 50 percent of confidence respectively whereas that of driving was 0.206 - 0.270 and 0.232 - 0.244.” This means that recreational diving is 39 and 62 times riskier with 95 percent and 50 percent confidence, respectively, than driving a car.

Ikeda, T. and Ashida, H., Is Recreational Diving Safe ?Division of Environmental Medicine and Division of Biomedical Information Sciences, National Defense Medical College Research Institute, Tokorozawa, Japan.

Another way to use a safety sausage: The U.S. Navy has tested a device called the Rescue Streamer, an 11 inch wide, 40 foot long, bright orange device produced by Rescue Technologies Corp., in Aiea, Hawaii. Fully extended on the water’s surface, it was visible by the naked eye from an altitude of 5000 feet. A typical rescue plane flies at 500 to 1000 feet, so if you happen to be so unlucky someday that search planes are sent, stretch out your sausage on the surface of the water to aid rescuers. The top of your head alone is barely a dot from that altitude. If you want the real McCoy, a 6 inch wide, 25 foot long streamer sells for $34.95. Call: 1- 888 - 411 - 9888. Fax: 1- 808 - 483 - 3254, Phone: 1- 808 - 483 - 3255, or go to:www.rescuestreamer.com .

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