Two California fishermen pretend they are maritime pirates and hold an oceanographic mooring for ransom

First, let’s give a shoutout to these two dudes who found a washed up mooring and, like adults, gave it back to MBARI.


Now I give the eye of disdain to another two fisherman, who found a detached piece of an mooring and have decided to hold it for ransom. It’s not unusual that oceanographic moorings break free and sometimes float to the surface. It’s also not unusual that fisherman sometimes scoop them up. I’ve had that happen twice and both times they were nice and cooperative we got the instruments back. But this is absolutely ridiculous.

Here’s the timeline of events:

January 15th: There was a strong bottom current event during an underwater storm that caused the mooring to detach from its anchor and float to the surface. Other floats also detached during this event which MBARI also chased after and found. These mooring were actually designed to capture and measure these types of underwater storms, which are more like crazy sediment landslide, and they are actually notoriously awesome at ripping moorings from the seafloor.

January 17th:  The broken bit of mooring phoned home and told researchers at USGS it was in Moss Landing.Map of Beacon

January 19th: Fisherman tells USGS he has the mooring and demands money for it. They say no. They tell him they want it back.Dudewithmooring

January 20th: Fisherman drives away with mooring.



And here we are at the current legal scuffle. USGS wants its mooring back and one of the fisherman has his father, an attorney, arguing that the fisherman are now “OWNERS” of the mooring and will “SELL” it back to USGS (their capitalization, not mine).

If you lose something in the ocean, it doesn’t stay yours forever.

I’m just going to file this under arcane misinterpretation of salvaging laws by a lawyer out of his element. It had a homing beacon on it. It was SUPPOSED TO BE FOUND. That’s how they found it on the dock. And it had a tag indicating it was owned by USGS with a phone number because you know, they wanted it back.

I don’t need a million dollars—I just want to be compensated for my days lost

Two words: GHOST NETS. Seriously, if that fisherman wants to be compensated for losing money and time for getting his propeller entangled in a rogue floating piece of rope, then all fishers better pony up and make a fund to reimburse all the other boat owners that have been entangled in discarded fishing nets. I absolutely agree it sucks, but one mooring is literally a drop in the bucket of ALL THE CRAP we throw into the ocean. And this thing was actually designed to be retrieved unlike the majority of other marine debris!

“It’s his rollerskate and he can sell it to whoever or keep it all he wants

YOU GUYS. I’ve always wanted an ocean rollerskate. If that’s the way current salvaging laws work I’m totes headed down to the marina to sit on your boat, claim it as my own and sell it on ebay. But for reals, the mooring was not abandoned so these guys can’t just lay claim to it.

Let’s just summarize by saying that the arguments for keeping the buoy are at boorish and incorrect. Coincidentally or not, it sounds like this fisherman has fired his lawyer dad. What I am really hoping is that these dudes just give the mooring back. I feel for you, propeller entanglements are the worst, but holding public property hostage is just not the way to go.


2 men take US gov’t ocean science buoy, now want to “sell” it back for $13,000

Fisherman who has kept USGS buoy for 10 weeks: All I want is compensation

Fishermen Ransom Uncle Sam’s Sea Gizmo

4 Replies to “Two California fishermen pretend they are maritime pirates and hold an oceanographic mooring for ransom”

  1. You are correct, it’s your mooring. Once it broke loose it became ocean trash. You are accountable for the damage it causes and financially responsible to make the damaged parties whole, regardless if your trash is “a drop in the bucket”. If you abandoned the mooring it’s his, if it broke loose you failed to properly secure it and it’s his. It’s not your ocean and you’re not above the law. Pay up or shut up.

  2. To be fair, by your reasoning the fisherman that picked it up should also be accountable for paying for the damage to the instruments once it was picked up from the ocean, cleaned and then carted away in a truck. Are they prepared to do that?

    And if it is ocean trash, why did they claim ownership in the first place and try to sell back to the USGS in the first place?

    To get down to it, we could fill pages swapping stories on past run-ins between people on boats and scientific instruments. Intentional or not, many end with unfortunate outcomes for the equipment of both parties. But like I said before, these encounters are usually cordial and end up being resolved amicably. If that is what these fisherman really wanted, they shouldn’t have started off by insisting the mooring was theirs and demanding money for it. That is stealing and they are not above the law either.

  3. The research mooring belongs to the government. The data it generates is for the benefit of all citizens. If you found a navigation buoy broken loose would you truck it home and tell the Coast Guard it’s yours and they have to buy it back? Get serious.

  4. Being a Federal offense, should they go to prison if they don’t return it?

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