Objects sighted at sea on Sunday by an Australian Orion searching for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 have been identified as fishing buoys, nets and other ocean junk.
The crew of a P3 Orion captained by Flight Lieutenant Russell Adams reported at least four orange objects, each more than two metres in size, during an 11-hour mission over the Australian search zone, west of Perth, on Sunday.
"We were able to detect many objects in the water today," Flight Lieutenant Adams said on the tarmac at RAAF Pearce.
"We were able to rule a few out as fishing buoys and fishing nets, however, of interest today we did encounter an area within approximately five nautical miles which included at least four orange coloured objects greater than approximately two metres in size each."
But he stressed that the objects had not been identified and further investigation and analysis were required.
"However, for my crew, from our perspective this ... gave us the most promising leads," he said.
Australian search authorities ruled out the objects as possible plane debris hours later, based on images provided by the crew.
"The objects have been described as fishing equipment and other flotsam," an Australian Maritime Safety Authority spokeswoman told Fairfax Media.
There have been growing incidents of object sightings at sea following a dramatic shift in the search zone to an area about 1850 kilometres west of Perth on Friday.
The move closer to land had followed a revision of MH370's likely movements by international air crash investigators in Malaysia.
In the days that followed, aircraft, including a Royal New Zealand Air Force P-3 Orion, a Chinese Ilyushin IL-76 and two Australian P-3 Orions, reported more than 10 sightings, at least one of which was later found to be a "distinctive fishing object", AMSA said in a statement on Saturday.
"The objects cannot be verified or discounted as being from MH370 until they are relocated and recovered by ships," AMSA said.
"It is not known how much flotsam, such as from fishing activities, is ordinarily there."
Although eight ships have now arrived in the search zone, there has yet to be confirmation any of the items discovered by air crews are linked to the missing flight.
Meanwhile, the ADV Ocean Shield, which is carrying the mission's only black box pinger locator has been delayed departing from a Perth naval base.
The Ocean Shield was due to leave HMAS Stirling about 9pm local time last night to undertake equipment trials near Rottnest Island before heading for the search zone, but was delayed.
There had been no significant object sightings by late afternoon on Monday, an AMSA spokeswoman said.
- Sydney Morning Herald