In the last year, the Coast Guard has received various reports from perplexed AIS users who have seen various unknown and erratic targets appearing on their AIS, many of which were unable to be ‘seen’ on radar or visually,

...said Jorge Arroyo from the Coast Guard’s Navigation Technology and Risk Management Division.

According to Arroyo, further research indicated that most of these ghost targets have turned out to be as AIS-like devices used to mark fishnets, yet they appear as vessels to others.

This is contrary to FCC and USCG regulations, such non-compliant devices, amongst other things, are illegal to be sold, purchased or used in the US.

As such, the Federal Communication Commission issued in late 2018 an enforcement advisory reiterating this to sellers, advertisers, and operators of non-compliant Automatic Identification Systems devices like AIS Fish Net Buoys.

The advisory states that the use of non-compliant AIS devices is illegal and has the potential to disrupt important maritime communications, increasing the risk of accidents by creating confusion about whether an AIS signal represents a vessel that must be avoided.

AIS is required to be properly installed, maintained, and used, but foremost, you should ensure you are buying a true AIS and not a knock-off sold on the internet. As with all purchases, buyers beware—be informed,

...said Arroyo.

Violators of the FCC’s rule may be subject to the penalties authorized by the Communications Act, including but not limited to, substantial monetary fines of up to $19,639 per day for marketing violations and up to $147,290 for an ongoing violation, USCG warned, adding that it will assist the FCC in enforcing their rules.