Coast Guard uses Facebook to locate boater; saves thousands in tax dollars

Eastport, Maine – Coast Guard Sector Northern New England was searching early this morning for a possible overdue fisherman out of Cobscook Park in Eastport until a search on Facebook helped locate information which ultimately closed the case and as a result saved up to $30,000 for the taxpayers.

A park ranger at Cobscook Park reported to the Coast Guard a lone vehicle and trailer with no boat sitting in a parking lot. Using the license plate, the Coast Guard was able to locate a name, address, and phone number of the vehicle owner but there was no response at the location.

Before launching a costly search by Coast Guard aircraft and cutters and with little amplifying information, Paul Conner, the search and rescue controller at Coast Guard Sector Northern New England who was running the case, decided to use the social networking site Facebook to enhance his search means. Knowing the popularity of internet networking sites, Conner used Facebook to check for any contact information on the missing fisherman or his relatives.

“Sometimes we have to be very creative in our information gathering,” said Conner. “A simple internet search can often help us locate a missing person before a boat or aircraft is even on scene.”

Conner was ultimately able to locate an email address and contact number for one of the missing fisherman’s relatives. He sent an email to the listed address, but in the end the phone number led him to speak to the fisherman directly, who was not in any distress and moored at a different location than his trailer and vehicle.

“For over 200 years the Coast Guard has been using any means necessary to fulfill our mission,” said Captain Jim McPherson, commander at Sector Northern New England. “Now we can add social online media as another tool in our lifesaving kit.”

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