Vandalism/Negligent Destruction of Ocean and Coastal Observing Systems

Vandalized buoy

Photo 57: Vandalized buoy. 
(NOAA National Data Buoy Center.)

Vandalism and negligent damage to or destruction of ocean and coastal observation systems (i.e., data buoys) is attributed to both deliberate activities (e.g., theft of buoy parts, fishermen tying up to data buoys, which act as fish aggregating devices) and inadvertent activities (e.g., vessels running over buoys).

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Annually about 10 percent of buoy data worldwide is lost due to vandalism. NOAA, which operates a network of several hundred data buoys through the National Data Buoy Center (NDBC) and the Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory (PMEL), spends upward of $1 million annually to repair and replace data buoys rendered inoperable due to vandalism. NOAA buoys collect data for weather and marine forecasting and modeling such as Niño predictions, as well as information used by fisheries managers, search and rescue operations, tsunami warnings and climate modeling. Thus data buoy vandalism can have significant repercussions, including property damage and loss of life.

Many nations rely on the data collected by data buoys, especially those linked to the Tropical Atmosphere Ocean-Triangle Trans-Ocean Buoy Network (TAO-TRITON), Deep-ocean Assessment and Reporting of Tsunami system (DART), Prediction and Research Moored Array in the Atlantic (PIRATA), andResearch Moored Array for Africa-Asian-Australian Monsoon Analysis and Prediction (RAMA).

In the past few years, the United States has raised the issue of data buoy vandalism in a number of different international fora: the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC), the UN General Assembly (UNGA), the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC), and the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC).


Vandalized buoy

Photo 58: Vandalized buoy. 
(NOAA National Data Buoy Center.)

World Metrological Organization, Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (WMO-IOC)

In June 2009, the IOC adopted a resolution Global Coordination of Early Warning and Mitigation Systems for Tsunamis and Other Sea-Level Related Hazards, which requested the IOC Executive Secretary to raise the issue of vandalism of ocean observing platforms with the UN General Assembly and other appropriate bodies. The IOC Resolution also directed that a global assessment of the problem to include its impacts, costs and recommendations be conducted by the Drifting Buoy Cooperation Panel and the International Tsunameter Partnership (DBCP/ITP) in coordination with the World Metrological Organization, Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (WMO-IOC) Joint Technical Commission for Oceanography.

In 2011, the Twenty-Sixth Assembly of the IOC adopted Resolution XXVI-6, "Data Buoy Vandalism: Incidence, Impact And Responses," to promote action with regard to vandalism. The IOC Assembly also took steps to present at the UN General Assembly the global assessment conducted by the DBCP/ITP directed by the 2009 IOC resolution in order to heighten awareness of the problem and stimulate a response at the highest level.

In June 2011, at its Sixteenth Congress, the World Metrological Organization (WMO) urged members and invited relevant International and Intergovernmental Organizations to work to protect data buoy systems. It also requested the WMO’s Secretary-General and invited the Executive Secretary of UNESCO/IOC to present the global assessment conducted by the DBCP/ITP to the UN General Assembly.


Regional Fishery Management Organization Action

In December 2009, the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) adopted Conservation and Management Measure 2009-05 to protect moored data buoys.

In March 2011, the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) adopted Resolution 11/02, prohibiting fishing vessels within the convention area from intentionally fishing within one nautical mile of or interacting with a data buoy.

In July 2011, the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) adopted Resolution C-11-03 prohibiting fishing on data buoys, interacting with, or deploying fishing gear within one nautical mile of an anchored data buoy by fishing vessels within the convention area.


United Nations Action

In December 2011, the General Assembly adopted Resolution A/66/L.22, Sustainable Fisheries and Resolution A/66/L.21, Oceans and the Law of the Sea, calling upon States and regional fisheries management organizations to adopt measures to protect data buoy systems in areas that are beyond national jurisdiction, and to take necessary action needed to cooperate with relevant organizations seeking to protect such data buoys.


Additional Reference Information Some of these links are to external sites.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

World Metrological Organization, Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (WMO-IOC)

Regional Fisheries Management Organizations

United Nations Resolutions

Other Intergovernmental Bodies