As Public Aquaria continue to grow in popularity and size the requirement to dive within the display tanks for the purposes of feeding the animals, monitoring animal health and also carrying out maintenance tasks also increases. There are now very few public aquaria that do not have at least an irregular requirement to use divers.
At the present time there is no one overseeing body or organization that coordinates diving within the Public Aquarium Industry.
Routine Aquarium Diving falls under the Scientific and Archaeological Diving Project Approved Code of Practice (ACOP). The ACOP provides advice on meeting the requirements of the Diving at work regulations 1997. Generally scientific diving projects include all diving projects undertaken in support of scientific research or educational instruction.
It should be noted that diving tasks other than standard display maintenance or feeding may require the application of alternative ACOP’s such as Media Diving or Inshore Diving. The definitions and roles of those involved in Aquarium Diving are the same as with any other branch of commercial diving.
Diving within display tanks poses a number of very unique parameters that are not normally encountered in Commercial Diving. In the majority of cases there are large or even potentially dangerous animals in the display tanks, indeed many of the tasks required of the divers brings them into direct contact with these animals.
The dives take place in confined waters with no weather or tide to worry about, but there may well be entanglement risks and communication difficulties.
As with all commercial dive operations each site must be risk assessed and the appropriate control measures implemented.
Specific Requirements For Aquarium Diving
The Dive Team
The minimum dive team for benign conditions using Scuba equipment is a supervisor, and 2 divers. It is rarely acceptable to use the minimum dive team as these conditions refer to public swimming pools.
Please note: Benign conditions are identified by the following, a tank or pool with no strong currents, clear water, no trapping, entanglement or overhead hazards, easy entry and exit to the water, where the tasks are not long and arduous and with no large or potentially dangerous animals present. Local inspectors will classify the dive site.
Public aquariums are therefore usually required to operate with a dive supervisor and a dive tender at the surface and 2 divers in the water.
Aquarium divers in the UK must have the following qualifications:
As a minimum requirement all divers must have either commercial HSE approved dive qualifications, PADI Divemaster, CMAS 3* or another recreational equivalent.
Divers must have 4 day HSE approved first aid training.
Oxygen administration certification.
Divers must be medically fit, an annual HSE approved dive medical is required.
Divers must trained and competent to carry out the tasks at hand.
Volunteers can be integrated into a commercial team if they have the relevant qualifications, training and experience as described above.
Please note that your entire dive team cannot consist of volunteers irrespective of the classification of ‘conditions’