USCG Rescues Sea Turtle Trapped by Cocaine

By The Maritime Executive 12-18-2017 08:59:40

On Sunday, the Coast Guard Cutter Thetis returned to her home port in Key West after a 68-day counternarcotics patrol in the Eastern Pacific. As she has on previous tours, Thetis seized thousands of kilograms of cocaine and dozens of smugglers during a series of interdictions, assisted by other Coast Guard vessels and multiple partner agencies. This time, though, Thetis' crew had a chance to make a difference in an unusual way – rescuing a sea turtle from entanglement in a floating mass of illegal narcotics. 

On November 19, Thetis launched a small boat team to investigate a debris field in the water. It turned out to be multiple bales of cocaine, bound together with line, and in the midst of the mass was an entangled sea turtle. 

Coast Guard Ens. Mark Krebs, the samll boat's coxswain, said that as soon as his team arrived on scene with the jettison field, they spotted the entangled turtle. The animal showed chafing from the lines on his neck and flippers. They briefed Thetis' commanding officer and went to work, carefully cutting the lines wrapped around the sea turtle and freeing him.

The turtle swam off, and the boat crew hauled in 75 feet of line and 1,800 pounds of cocaine – an amount worth approximately $50 million, and a significant fraction of the 6,800 kilos that Thetis brought in during this tour. 

During the deployment, Thetis and her crew worked alongside the Coast Guard Pacific Tactical Law Enforcement Team (PACTACLET), a sharpshooter detachment from the Coast Guard Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron (HITRON) and a Royal Canadian Navy maritime coastal defense vessel in support of Operation Martillo.

Martillo is a long-running international effort to fight the cartels that ship cocaine between Columbia and Central America. The Coast Guard says that America’s 14 partner nations have contributed to about 60 percent of the tonnage captured over the course of the initiative.