LONG BEACH, Calif. - A frantic call for help out in the open ocean ends up being a hoax, according to the Los Angeles Coast Guard.
It's swatting on the high seas. The mystery male caller accused of making at least eight suspected false distress calls in the last month.
"Anytime we get a distress call over a marine radio it's a concern for us. We take those calls very seriously," said Chief Gonzalo Medina, with the Long Beach Fire Department's Marine Safety Division.
The division is one of the only local departments in the area with rescue boats at the ready around the clock. It often joins the Coast Guard when they are called out. Officials said when fake calls come in real lives can be put at risk.
"All of our 24-hour rescue boats are strategically placed to respond to any emergency throughout the night. However, when a distress call comes in our boats react, they respond, and potentially takes them out of the position for the real call that comes in," Medina said.
Boaters who spoke with Eyewitness News said making a fake mayday call is no joking matter. It's also a federal offense. The Coast Guard said those calls are now undergoing forensic voice analysis to try to identify the caller.
Authorities hope the public may be able to help match a name with the mayday call.
"It's a federal issue. It's a big deal. I encourage anyone to think twice and be mindful of what you're doing," Medina said.
If convicted, the man could face up to six years in prison and receive a $250,000 fine. If you recognize the voice, you're urged to call the U.S. Coast Guard.