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Skin and Scuba Diving at
Gulf Islands National Seashore

The National Park Service recognizes that skin and scuba diving are very popular activities, however, these activities may be limited in certain areas at certain times by the Park Superintendent. National Seashore jurisdiction includes submerged lands extending outward one mile or to the edge of the shipping channel. Because of dangers inherent to visitors and because of possible adverse effects to natural, historic and scientific features, the following guidelines will be enforced.

  1. Scuba divers are required to have evidence for qualification of diving ability, such as a nationally recognized certification card or the assurance of a supervising instructor. It may be necessary to present this information to a law enforcement officer. Divers can be refused permission to dive by a law officer if in their judgment conditions are unsafe, or if equipment or individual abilities are questionable. Businesses are required to purchase a permit for training classes within park waters.

  2. Use the "buddy system" and "diver down" flag when in the water. Each diver will carry a knife as monofilament line is often found in the area and can be a hazard.

  3. It is recommended that tanks have a see view pressure gauge. Backpacks and weight belts will; have a quick release device and weight belts will be worn on the outside of other equipment.

  4. Any dive injuries or illness must be reported to the Seashore immediately. Keep physically fit and do not dive when tired or ill. Plan your dive, dive your plan.

  5. Salvage activities are not allowed without the written permission of the Superintendent.

  6. It is your responsibility to know existing Florida minimum legal sizes, limits, harvesting methods and seasons on crab and fish.

  7. No spear fishing is permitted from 200 feet east of the Fort Pickens fishing pier, to 300 feet west of the last rock jetty in Pensacola Pass. Spear fishing is prohibited in the Perdido Key jetties and in the vicinity of swimming beaches. Explosive or power heads are prohibited.

  8. No diving or swimming is permitted within 100 feet of the Fort Pickens fishing pier.

  9. Harassment of marine mammals, sea turtles, and manta rays is unlawful. Respect all creatures you encounter.

Local Diving

Barrier Islands are the predominant coastal form within the Florida Unit of the Gulf Islands Nation Seashore. The southside of Santa Rosa Island has sandy bottoms exposed to tidal changes and surf action. Many marine creatures swim or drift through the waters or live on or within the bottom sands. Most divers find these areas to be a "barren desert." On the bay side of the island are shallow areas of scattered marine grass in which the snorkeler can find pinfish, pipefish, seahorses and other interesting species. Some popular are:

  • The jetties at the northwest corner of Fort Pickens seawall. Depths can drop to 50 feet, and currents can be treacherous.

  • The 1906 wreck of the tugboat Sport, 0.9 miles east of the Fort Pickens Ranger Station on the bayside.

  • The 1894 wreck of the Catherine located southwest of the Ranger Station at 17 feet. It can be hard to locate.

  • The USS Massachusetts is a 550 feet battleship sunk by the military in the 1920ís 1.5 miles outside Pensacola Pass.

Emergency Medical Aid

Emergencies 911

National Park Service Dispatch (report all injuries) (850) 916-3010

DAN (Divining Accident Network) (919) 694-8111


Spearing is defined as "the catching of a fish by bow hunting, gigging, spearfishing, or any device used to capture a fish by piercing its body. The use of powerheads, bangsticks, and rebreathers remains prohibited. The following is a list of species which are prohibited for harvest by spearing.

Billfish (all species African pompano Weakfish Snook
Bonefish Sturgeon Tripletail Spotted seatrout
Nassau grouper Jewfish Sharks Tarpon
Pompano Red drum Blue crab Manta ray
Spotted eagle ray Permit Stone crab Lobster
Families of ornamental reef fish (surgeonfish, trumpetfish, angelfish, butterflyfish, porcupinefish, cornetfish, squirrelfish, trunkfish, damselfish, parrotfish, pipefish, seahorse, puffers.

Any other species not listed which are managed by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and those not managed by the Commission are allowed to be harvested by spearing.

Information provided by:
National Park Service

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