SAN DIEGO — U.S. Coast Guard crews unloaded thousands of pounds of cocaine and cannabis in San Diego Wednesday after seizing the drugs in international waters during January and February.
The estimated $126.7 million worth of drugs were taken by authorities from 10 suspected drug smuggling vessels that several Coast Guard cutter crews stopped off the coasts of Mexico, Central and South America. Together, the drugs weighed approximately 7,500 pounds.
Military officials shared photos of the busts, with Coast Guard crews sitting atop low-profile vessels often called “narco subs,” which they spotted and stopped as they cruised through international waters on known drug smuggling routes. Other photos showed pangas, the small fishing boats often used to smuggle people and drugs into the U.S.
At least in some cases, the Coast Guard said the drug busts were carried out through “a bilateral agreement with a partner nation.” The Maritime Drug Law Enforcement Act of 1986 made smuggling in international waters a crime against the U.S., so anyone caught moving drugs on the water could be prosecuted even if those drugs were not bound for the U.S.
The Coast Guard is the agency tasked with hunting down potential smugglers, arresting them and bringing them to the U.S. for prosecution.
Coast Guard Cutters Bertholf, Munro, Harriet Lane and Vigilant, along with the branch’s Law Enforcement Detachment 107, were credited with the busts. They were assisted by the U.S. Navy, Customs and Border Protection, FBI, DEA and ICE.
“The fight against drug cartels in the Eastern Pacific Ocean requires unity of effort in all phases from detection, monitoring and interdictions, to criminal prosecutions by international partners and U.S. Attorneys’ Offices in districts across the nation,” USCG officials wrote in a statement.
“The law enforcement phase of counter-smuggling operations in the Eastern Pacific Ocean is conducted under the authority of the 11th Coast Guard District, headquartered in Alameda.”