The Lummi Nation organized a dive safety course last month for 32 tribal divers.

Underwater harvest of sea cucumbers, geoducks and sea urchins is integral to the livelihood of many tribal fishermen, especially in light of declining salmon runs.

“Our schelangen, or way of life, depends on the natural resources of the sea,” said Lummi Chairman Cliff Cultee. “Crab, prawn and salmon seasons are short, so dive fisheries can be a more stable source of income.”

Most tribal divers use a surface supplied air system rather than scuba gear. An onboard air compressor and umbilical hose connects the diver to the surface.

“The primary reason for using surface supplied air is to maximize divers’ bottom times without limiting their air supplies while exerting themselves underwater,” said Lummi fisheries management biologist Karl Mueller.

Dive safety is like first-aid training, and should be reviewed regularly. Mueller organized the course at Edmonds Technical Diving Services in Hoodsport, and is planning to hold at least one more this year.

“The participants had a wide range of experience, from veteran divers to those recently certified,” he said. “Everyone got something out of the course.”

The training included CPR using oxygen and an automatic defibrillator, equipment maintenance and rescue scenarios. Divers simulated emergencies such as pulling the umbilical line to communicate when there’s a failure in voice communication, and bringing an unconscious diver to the surface.

“In the diver down scenario, they practiced stripping gear efficiently,” Mueller said. “The fastest anyone was able to administer oxygen was 20 seconds.”

For more information on dive training, visit Edmonds Technical Diving Services’ website: www.etds.org.

For more information, contact: Karl Mueller, Lummi fisheries biologist, 360-384-2367 or karlm@lummi-nsn.gov; Kari Neumeyer, NWIFC information officer, 360-424-8226 or kneumeyer@nwifc.org.