A sea turtle trapped in bales of cocaine was rescued during a counter drug patrol mission in the eastern Pacific Ocean that also resulted in the seizure of about $53 million in drugs, U.S. Coast Guard officials said Sunday.
The cutter Thetis crew discovered the sea turtle on Nov. 19, after launching a small boat to investigate a debris field.
Upon close inspection, the crew discovered the marine reptile was trapped in what appeared to be multiple bales of suspected contraband, according to a Coast Guard news release.
“They saw significant chaffing from the lines on his neck and flippers,” the release stated.
Crew members carefully cut the lines wrapped around the sea turtle, freeing the reptile. They also recovered about 75-feet of line to prevent other sea animals from becoming trapped in it.
Authorities ended up recovering approximately 1,800 pounds of cocaine — with an estimated value of more than $53 million — from international waters, according to the release.
The incident took place while the cutter Thetis crew was on a 68-day mission in support of Operation Martillo, an international, interagency operation involving 18 participating countries targeting criminal organizations and illicit trafficking routes, according to the release.
The mission resulted in the seizure of nearly 15,000 pounds of cocaine and 14 pounds of marijuana, according to the release. Two dozen suspected smugglers were also apprehended.
The cutter crew returned to its port in Key West on Sunday.