Florida Keys

How a sea turtle trapped by floating bundles of cocaine found its freedom

U.S. Coast Guard cutter seizes nearly 7 tons of cocaine and rescues sea turtle

Coast Guard Cutter Thetis boat crew members rescue a sea turtle from entanglement in cocaine bales adrift in the Eastern Pacific, Nov. 19, 2017. The rescue was conducted during the cutter crew's 68-day law enforcement patrol.
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Coast Guard Cutter Thetis boat crew members rescue a sea turtle from entanglement in cocaine bales adrift in the Eastern Pacific, Nov. 19, 2017. The rescue was conducted during the cutter crew's 68-day law enforcement patrol.

The U.S. Coast Guard got more than it initially thought when a Key West-based Guard boat crew seized almost seven tons of cocaine in the ocean.

It also got an endangered sea turtle, which was trapped among the floating bundles of cocaine.

The Coast Guard cutter Thetis, stationed at Sector Key West, was in the eastern Pacific on a 68-day deployment helping the Pacific Tactical Law Enforcement Team, an aviation detachment from the Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron, and a Royal Canadian Navy boat in support of Operation Martillo. They seized 6,755 kilograms of cocaine and 14 pounds of marijuana during eight separate interdictions that resulted in the apprehension of 24 suspected smugglers.

While on patrol Nov. 19, the cutter launched a small boat to investigate the debris field. The crew discovered the turtle entangled in multiple bales of drugs, the Coast Guard said Sunday.

Ensign Mark Krebs, the mission commander, said that as his team arrived at the debris, they noticed the entangled sea turtle. They saw “significant chafing from the lines on his neck and flippers.”

They cut the lines wrapped around the sea turtle and freed it.

The boat crew recovered more than 75 feet of line to prevent further entanglement of sea life. They also got the cocaine, which the Guard says is worth more than $53 million on the street.

Operation Martillo is an effort launched in January 2012 targeting illicit trafficking routes in waters along the Central American isthmus. Fourteen countries are part of the operation.

The Thetis returned to Key West on Sunday.

Larry Kahn: 305-440-3218

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