Coast Guard Frees Sea Turtle Tangled In $53 Million Worth Of Cocaine

By Keri Blakinger 12/22/17

The ailing sea turtle was surrounded by 1,800 pounds of cocaine when the Coast Guard found it. 

member of Coast Guard freeing the entangled sea turtle
photo via US Coast Guard

He was swimming in cocaine—literally. 

The U.S. Coast Guard last month rescued a sea turtle tangled up in 1,800 pounds of cocaine floating in the Pacific Ocean. 

The Thetis cutter crew returned to port Sunday with its massive haul from 68 days at sea searching for illicit drugs, according to a release. In the course of the mission, the Coast Guard helped snatch up more than 6,700 kilograms of blow and 14 pounds of pot in eight separate seizures that netted 24 arrests. 

On Nov. 19, the Over the Horizon small boat found the ailing turtle after setting out to investigate a debris field. The turtle had chaffing on his neck and flippers from the yards of lines wrapped around him. In all, crews took in some 75 feet of lines to prevent other animals from getting tangled up, according to People

They also took in $53 million of cocaine bobbing about in international waters. 

In a cheeky tweet after the incident, the official U.S. Coast Guard account wrote: "After a period of lengthy questioning, it was determined the turtle did not have any useful information. We released him on his own recognizance after he agreed not to return to these waters again. #turtlesmuggler"

A few minutes after poking fun at their "turtle smuggler," they sent a follow-up tweet with a bit more sincerity, "In all seriousness, we love our sea creatures and do everything we can to help them when we see them in distressed situations. Additionally, during this patrol nearly seven tons of illicit narcotics with a street value over $135 million was confiscated."

Earlier this year, the Coast Guard’s drug interdiction efforts drew praise from Attorney General Jeff Sessions and from federal prosecutors, who held a press conference in September to announce the super-size haul from arrests off the coast of Central and South America. 

During August and the first part of September, Coast Guard crews seized more than 50,000 pounds of coke and heroin worth more than $670 million, according to CBS News.

“The seizure of this cocaine means tens of thousands of pounds won’t make it to our communities and hundreds of millions of dollars won’t make it into cartel coffers,” Acting U.S. Attorney Alana Robinson said in a statement at the time. “To drug traffickers who may think they are invisible in the middle of what seems to be a vast, empty ocean: You are not alone. We are doing everything we can to prevent you from using the high seas as your personal freeway.”

Sessions called it a “record-breaking year.” 

"By preventing overdoses and stopping new addictions before they start, enforcing our drug laws saves lives," he said, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The Coast Guard has handed over more than 600 suspected smugglers to the Department of Justice this year and brought in more than 450,000 pounds of cocaine this fiscal year. 

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Keri Blakinger is a former drug user and current reporter living in Texas. She covers breaking news for the Houston Chronicle and previously worked for the New York Daily News and the Ithaca Times. She has written about drugs and criminal justice for the Washington Post, Salon, Quartz and more. She loves dogs and is not impressed by rodeo food. Find Keri on LinkedIn and Twitter.