The brass bell buoy sounds of Maine’s coastal waters are a reliable, old-tech navigation aid for mariners – and now a target for thieves.
Buoys have been looted for their brass bells and gongs over the last six months, and the Coast Guard First District is asking for the public’s help in tracking down the perpetrators.
Rocking on the waves, the bell buoys’ acoustic signals guide mariners around the rocky and fog-beset coastline. But the Coast Guard is finding more buoys disabled by thieves, who may be selling the expensive brass ringing equipment to nautical antique shops or scrap dealers, Coast Guard officials said.
Yellow brass is fetching $1.05 per pound at Maine scrap yards, according to prices posted this week. Federal officials are working with local law enforcement, scrap dealers and novelty and antique shops to identify people offering bells for sale and to reclaim the missing equipment.
It is a federal crime to tamper with aids to navigation, and offenders can be fined up to $25,000 per day of interference and be sentenced to up to one year in prison, according to Coast Guard officials.
“These thefts not only reduce the reliability of our aids to navigation system and put lives at risk, but they also create a burden and expense to the tax payer for the buoy tenders and crews responsible for maintaining the aids,” said Lt. Matthew Odom, Sector Northern New England’s waterways management division chief, in a public appeal Thursday.
Anyone with information regarding the missing sound signaling devices is urged to contact the Sector Northern New England command center at 207-767-0303.