Stornoway Coastguard received the first of numerous 999 calls on Saturday nignt reporting up to twelve red distress flares seen in the Sound of Barra between the Islands of South Uist and Barra.
Coastguard rescue teams from Barra and Lochboisdale were sent to investigate and the Coastguard rescue helicopter from Stornoway was sent to the vicinity to search for people or vessels in distress.
An urgency broadcast was made to seek assistance from vessels in the area and resulted in the Fishing Vessel Glenravel also proceeding to the scene.
After further enquiries and investigation, it was discovered that the flares had been set off by revellers at a beach party at Eolaigearraidh, near Barra Airport.
Martin Collins, Stornoway Coastguard Watch Manager, said: “This was an extremely irresponsible action as it has resulted in several rescue units being called out for no good reason.
“Not only that but while assigned to search for the source of these flares, the rescue units were not available for anyone who may have genuinely needed their help.
“It is also prohibited under the Merchant Shipping Act to set off red distress flares if you are not in difficulty and this incident has been reported to the Police.”
He added: “The public should ensure that all marine flares are disposed of correctly and you can contact your local Coastguard station for information about flare disposal. Under no circumstances should marine flares be disposed of in a manner such as this.”