Coast Guard seeks Maine bell buoy bandits

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.

The space in which a sound signaling brass bell hangs on this offshore buoy in Maine is empty after the bell was stolen, off the coast of Maine. Coast Guard photo.

The space in which a sound signaling brass bell hangs on this offshore buoy in Maine is empty after the bell was stolen, off the coast of Maine. Coast Guard photo.

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.

 

About the author

Kirk Moore

Associate Editor Kirk Moore was a reporter for the Asbury Park Press for over 30 years before joining WorkBoat in 2015. He wrote several award-winning stories on marine, environmental, coastal and military issues that helped drive federal and state government policy changes. He has also been a field editor for WorkBoat’s sister publication, National Fisherman, for almost 25 years. Moore was awarded the Online News Association 2011 Knight Award for Public Service for the “Barnegat Bay Under Stress,” 2010 series that led to the New Jersey state government’s restoration plan. He lives in West Creek, N.J.

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