May 12, 2005
The calls began on May 9, with a transmission indicating a disabled vessel near Metlakatla, in Nichols Passage.Two of the calls were short broadcasts of "Mayday" repeated twice with no further information.
Coast Guard boat crews from Station Ketchikan conducted search and rescue operations on each of the distress calls, but no actual signs of distress or reported overdues have occurred. The Ketchikan Police Department, Harbor Department and the Metlakatla Harbormaster have been given recordings of the broadcast to attempt to identify the source.
Hoax distress calls are calls for assistance or reports of a vessel in distress that are false. Hoax calls are a danger to both boaters and rescue personnel. Hoax calls place Coast Guard search and rescue crews, local rescue units, and Good Samaritans at risk unnecessarily when operating ships, boats and aircraft. Hoax distress calls also take resources away from legitimate rescue efforts and waste hundreds of thousands in taxpayer dollars.
With Alaska having more than 50 percent of the entire coastline in the United States, Coast Guard personnel and resources are regularly called upon for assistance. In the past five years the Coast Guard, in Alaska, averaged 693 cases, assisting or saving 1,055 people. In Alaska's unique and unpredictable environment it is important that the Coast Guard's time is not wasted on hoax calls, when other lives could be in danger.
It is a felony for anyone to knowingly and willfully communicate a false distress message to the Coast Guard or causes the Coast Guard to attempt to save lives and property when no help is needed. Penalties include up to six years in prison, $250,000 fine, $5,000 civil penalty and possible reimbursement to the Coast Guard for costs of the search.
Hoax messages include, but are not limited to, false telephone calls, marine radio broadcasts and flare launches.
If you hear or see a hoax or have information that might lead to the perpetrator of a hoax, contact the nearest U.S. Coast Guard unit, the Federal Communications Commission, or call the Coast Guard tip line at 1-800-2NO-HOAX.
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