U.S. Coast Guard officials seized nearly seven tons of cocaine–and an entangled sea turtle–during an operation in the eastern Pacific Ocean. The turtle survived the potentially deadly encounter with the drugs that had been set adrift by smugglers.
Crew members of the Coast Guard Cutter Thetis were on temporary assignment to the Pacific Ocean in late November. The ship and its crew are normally stationed at Sector Key West, Florida.
During the 68-day deployment, the crew worked with the Pacific Tactical Law Enforcement Team (an aviation detachment from the Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron) and the Royal Canadian Navy to carry out drug interdiction operations in the eastern Pacific Ocean, the Miami Herald reported.
On November 19, the Thetis launched a small boat to check out a floating debris field. During the investigation, the crew found an estimated $53 million in cocaine floating on the ocean. An endangered species of sea turtle had become ensnared by the lines holding the bundles of cocaine together.
The flotilla of drugs consisted of 26 rectangular bundles of cocaine, NBC News reported. Coast Guard Commander Jose Diaz said the drugs were probably abandoned by a “go-fast vessel” used to smuggle in the area.
“They probably felt the heat coming and got rid of it,” Diaz told NBC News.
The lines became wrapped around the turtle’s neck and fins. “There were some marks on her neck, so she may have been there a day or two,” Diaz explained.
In all, the 26 bundles weighed approximately 800 kilos.
Overall, Operation Martillo 2017 resulted in the seizure of nearly seven tons of cocaine valued at $135 million, officials stated. In addition, the operation resulted in the seizure of 14 pounds of marijuana and the apprehension of 24 smuggling suspects.