Diving Safety Program

The Diving Safety Program (DSP) provides oversight of compressed gas diving activities conducted by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW). The DSP reviews CDFW diving activities, supports ongoing projects, and provides initial and recurrent training for CDFW divers. The DSP is administered by the Marine Region and is supported by staff from throughout CDFW. The DSP is an organizational member of the American Academy of Underwater Sciences (AAUS).

Program Divers

There are approximately 70 active divers in CDFW's diving program. These scientific aids, environmental scientists, wildlife officers, and engineers log nearly 2000 dives annually for biological, ecological and hydrological research and monitoring; as well as for enforcement and public safety along the coast and in rivers, lakes, and reservoirs of California.

Standards and Policies

Only divers that meet CDFW criteria and have successfully completed CDFW training are eligible to dive using scuba in support of CDFW projects and programs. CDFW diving policies and procedures are based on the standards set forth by AAUS and are vetted by CDFW's Diving Safety Board. These policies and procedures may be found in CDFW's link opens in new tab or windowDiving Safety Manual (PDF) (File size 1.0 MB)


CDFW is an organizational member of AAUS. As a member in good standing, the CDFW diving program has reciprocal working relationships with university, government agency and other scientific diving programs. Researchers may dive on CDFW-hosted projects by first providing the DSO (at least 2 weeks in advance) with:

  • Letter of Reciprocity/Verification of Diver Training from your home institution
  • Evidence of Liability Coverage (CDFW form, coming soon)

Please contact your sponsoring investigator or the DSO for further information.


Course Offerings


    The Diving Safety Program offers a Scientific Diver Certification Course, annual Recertification Workshops, and Specialty Courses for authorized and prospective CDFW divers. 

    *Training is not offered to the public. Training is limited to CDFW staff with a need to conduct diving work for the Department.

    Diver Certification Course 

    Course Overview
    The DFW Scientific Diver Certification Course trains staff and evaluates staff readiness to use scuba under the auspices of the Department. This is accomplished during eight days of lectures, workshops, field exercises, and in-water development and evaluation of breath-hold diving and scuba diving skills based on the Scientific Diving Standards of the American Academy of Underwater Sciences. Topics include diving physics, physiology, decompression, night diving, dive planning, and research techniques, among others.

    Who May Take This Course
    You must be a CDFW employee to enroll in this course. Supervisor, Regional Manager/Branch Chief, and DSO permission is required.  The course is an intensive training that employs lectures, workshops, field work, and in-water evaluation of diving skills. It is not basic SCUBA training and candidates must meet course prerequisites, demonstrate in-water aptitude, and receive DSO approval prior to enrolling. Maximum class size is eight. Please contact the DSO for more information.

    Course Offerings
    The course is held annually in the spring.  Attendance at both sessions is required.

    • Session 1 (3-days)
    • Session 2 (5-days)

    Recertification Workshops

    Active CDFW divers must re-qualify annually. Recertification Workshops cover swim testing, first responder training, diver rescue skills, proficiency and depth qualification diving, and workshops in specialty diving modes. Attendance at one meeting is mandatory to maintain CDFW diving authorization. RSVP required.

    • Ft. Bragg, August 
    • Catalina, September 
    • Monterey, October 

    Specialized Diving Modes

    Training for active CDFW divers is available by request for the following specialized diving modes.

    • Altitude
    • Black water / low visibility
    • Blue water
    • Depth greater than 130 fsw
    • Dry suit
    • Light maintenance
    • Nitrox
    • Rebreather
    • Staged decompression
    • Swift water
    • Tended or tethered

    Diving Support Roles

    Training is available to CDFW divers and non-divers performing diver support functions.

    • Cylinder Handler Safety
    • Fill Station Operator

    The Diving Safety Board (DSB) provides consultation and guidance to the Diving Safety Officer to help ensure a safe and efficient diving operation. DSB members serve as CDFW's technical and policy advisors and assist the DSO when conducting diver training and safety programs.

    • Sonke Mastrup Diving Safety Manager
      Environmental Program Manager
      California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Marine Region
    • Jonathan Nelson Scientific Program Representative, Trainer
      Environmental Program Manager
      California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Fisheries Branch
    • David Osorio Diving Safety Officer
      Environmental Scientist
      California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Marine Region
    • Ian Taniguchi Board Chairperson, Scientific Program Representative, Trainer
      Senior Environmental Scientist
      California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Marine Region
      Los Alamitos
    • John Ugoretz Scientific Program Representative, Trainer
      Environmental Program Manager
      California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Marine Region
      Santa Barbara
    • Vacant Law Enforcement Representative
      California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Law Enforcement Division

    Program Administration

    Diving Safety Program operations are overseen by the Diving Safety Officer (DSO). The DSO is responsible for training divers and diver candidates, and for overseeing diving operations to ensure compliance with CDFW, AAUS, and OSHA standards for scientific and workplace diving. For more information, please contact:

    David Osorio
    Environmental Scientist, Diving Safety Officer
    California Department of Fish and Wildlife
    20 Lower Ragsdale Drive, Suite 100
    Monterey, CA 93940
    Phone: (831) 649-7195
    Email: AskMarine@wildlife.ca.gov