AN EXPERT has backed a plea by coastguards for dive enthusiasts not to be complacent as they prepare to take the plunge this season.

It comes as figures show the amount of diving incidents dealt with by coastguards is falling.

A spokesman for Portland Coastguard said they had seen the number of dive-related incidents for the district drop off in 2009 and since then they have gone down year on year.

In 2013 they were 24 dive incidents and no fatalities.

The reduction could be down to several factors according to coastguards, including the work that has been done to get the safety message out to divers, poor weather across the last few summers and less disposable income due to the current economic crisis.

Instructor Rob Hughes of Portland-based C-Waves Diving said it was ‘reassuring’ to hear the amount of incidents is falling.

But he said people trying the sport should not be complacent and urged them to be safe.

Mr Hughes said: “Now is the time of year that people will be getting back into diving after the winter.

“But people tend to jump into the water thinking they’re as fit as they were last season but they’ve had a six- month break.

“A lot of the incidents can be put down to diver error, or equipment error.”

He added: “All adventure sports are potentially dangerous. The key is how you prepare for it.

“With diving you don’t go in for a 30-metre plus dive straight away. You get dive fit and you build up to it.

“People die through complacency.”

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency said the number of diving incidents in the UK has fallen to its lowest level in 21 years, with 136 incidents in 2013, which included 10 fatalities.

It said the most common incident last year was decompression illness, with 44 cases.

A further 21 incidents were down to rapid ascent, which is likely to have developed into decompression sickness.

Ken Bazeley, the MCA’s National Diving Liaison Officer, said: “The key message for divers is to remember to make a slow ascent, perform a safety stop and have sufficient air and gas for the dive, with enough in reserve.”

A Portland Coastguard spokesman added that divers should always check the weather and tides before they go out and that the skipper of their boat has all their details.

He said: “Plan the dive and dive the plan.”