The following is a press release issued by the U.S. Coast Guard:
(PORTLAND, Maine) — The Coast Guard and Maine Marine Patrol are investigating a growing number of missing metal sound signals from buoys along the Maine coastline.
At least seven known buoys, primarily throughout the Down East Region, have had their bells and gongs removed and investigators suspect they are being stolen and sold.
“It’s possible that they are being sold to either nautical novelty shops or scrap metal yards,” said Chief Warrant Officer Jeffrey Chase, the aids to navigation officer at Sector Northern New England. In either case, he estimates the bells could land hundreds of dollars apiece.
As a deterrent, Chase said Coast Guard intelligence officials are working closely with local shops and scrap yards to identify missing property.
The missing bells and other hardware can cost taxpayers $400 to $1500 each to replace. If convicted, vandals are liable for the cost of repair and may also be punished under federal law with fines of up to $2,500 and imprisonment of up to one year.
Further, missing navigational aids put mariners in danger.
“It can be compared to someone stealing the traffic lights on a busy main street,” said Cmdr. Brian Downey of Sector Northern New England. “These signals are there to warn mariners of hazards. Both the visual and audible signals are critical to the safe navigation of vessels, from large tanker ships to fishing and recreational crafts.”
All mariners, harbormasters, and the boating public are urged to report any navigational aid discrepancies or suspicious activity to the nearest Coast Guard station or make an anonymous report to the Maritime Safety Information hotline at 1-800-682-1796.