Coast Guard Warns Against Making Hoax Distress Calls

May 21, 2015

Chief Petty Officer Andrew Cohen says making a hoax distress call is a felony punishable with “up to $5,000 in civil fines, $250,000 in criminal fines, along with restitution for all resources used.”
Credit Ray Hollister / WJCT News

With Memorial Day weekend coming up, the Coast Guard is advising all boaters to stay safe.

Chief Petty Officer Andrew Cohen, the Jacksonville command center supervisor said, “Make sure you have enough fuel on board, you know how to use your radio properly and how to read your GPS.”

“The more information you can give us, the easier it is for us to locate you,” Cohen said.

In addition to the helpful hints, the Coast Guard is also warning boaters against making hoax distress calls.

Cohen says the Coast Guard receives about 18 confirmed hoax distress calls and about 121 suspected hoax calls on average annually.

Cohen says making a hoax call is a felony punishable with “up to $5,000 in civil fines, $250,000 in criminal fines, along with restitution for all resources used.”

“In addition to that,” Cohen said, “it also does put not only our crews in danger and harm’s way, sending them out in unneeded missions, but it can also pull the Coast Guard away from legitimate calls of mariners in distress.”

Cohen said, “This is not to deter mariners from calling for distress or help, if they do believe they need assistance.“

The Coast Guard is required to respond and take action to all calls received for any cry of help or plea of mayday.

This week, the Coast Guard called off a search for four fishermen in distress off the coast of Jacksonville. Their vessel reportedly caught fire and sank Monday. Cohen says the Coast Guard does not believe that call to be a hoax.