At least seven known buoys, mostly throughout the Down East region of Maine, have had their bells and gongs removed, according to a recent Coast Guard press release.
Officials suspect the bells and gongs are being stolen and sold, and the Coast Guard intelligence division is working with local shops and scrap yards to identify the missing property. These items can cost taxpayers $400 to $1,500 each to replace, and if the vandals are found they can be held liable for the cost of repairs as well as fines up to $2,500 and imprisonment up to one year, according to the report.
Plus, the Coast Guard adds that these missing navigational aids can put boaters in danger.
“It can be compared to someone stealing the traffic lights on a busy main street,” Cmdr. Brian Downey of Sector Northern New England says in the report. “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.”
Anyone with information regarding this problem or noticing any other suspicious activity are encouraged to contact their nearest Coast Guard station or make an anonymous report to the Maritime Safety Information hotline at 1-800-682-1796.
— Elizabeth Ellis