Busted! Okay, well… not really. The Coast Guard managed to rescue an endangered sea turtle who became entangled in a massive floating stash of cocaine bricks last month that officials believe was thrown overboard by smugglers who were about to get caught by law enforcement.
It’s not unusual for maritime patrols like the Coast Guard to come across cocaine as it’s smuggled into the United States, sometimes stashed in small boats and other times floating ashore with the tide. For a sea turtle to get involved, though, is highly unusual.
“There were some marks on her neck, so she may have been there a day or two,” Commander Jose Diaz told NBC News of the endangered creature, who was found entangled in the mesh that held 26 rectangular packages of cocaine together as the mass floated along the surface of the ocean.
“They probably felt the heat coming and got rid of it,” Diaz speculated.
Video posted on line showed guardsmen working to extricate the turtle from the jumble, which saw tangled lines jutting into the creature’s neck and fins. By the time the messy work was completed, the turtle was safely returned to the sea and authorities had hauled in a whopping 800 kilos of cocaine.
The guardsmen who freed the turtle were part of Operation Martillo, an international effort that began in 2012 and seeks to eliminate drug trafficking routes along the Central American coast. The latest patrol alone saw the operation haul in 7 tons of cocaine, valued at an estimated $135 million.
“The United States can expect to see increased levels of cocaine supply and use, at least through 2018,” the Drug Enforcement Agency said in a report. “As coca cultivation and cocaine production in Colombia increase, the United States will very likely see continued increases in cocaine-related deaths, new initiates, seizures, and positive workplace drug tests.”