Is it finders keepers or a kind of hostage taking when a commercial fisherman “rescues” an oceanographic buoy adrift off Monterey, Calif., and won’t give it back to the U.S. Geological Survey until the agency pays him for his trouble?
Daniel Sherer, 39, owns the 30-foot commercial fishboat Irish with partner Patrick Anderson. He was trapping Pacific hagfish in January — hagfish resemble eels and are prized in South Korea for the dinner table — when he came across the approximately 4-foot-diameter buoy floating 5 miles off Monterey, said his father, David, a semiretired lawyer and his son’s original legal counsel in the case.
The fish captain turned his boat around to get a closer look, tangled his running gear in the buoy’s mooring cables and hauled the scientific gear aboard, Sherer said. He said his son didn’t know exactly what he had. For all he knew — or still knows, for that matter — it could have been a submarine detection buoy.
“You think they’re going to tell us that’s what it is?” Sherer said. “No.”
Whatever it was, it was a hazard to navigation, as the lawyer’s son discovered when his boat became snarled in the cable.