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US Coast Guard rescues sea turtle entangled in bundles of cocaine off the coast of Florida

Posted at 12:47 PM, Dec 20, 2017
and last updated 2017-12-20 12:49:36-05

KEY WEST, Fla. — The US Coast Guard rescued a sea turtle entangled in bundles of cocaine off the coast of Florida.

The Coast Guard Cutter Thetis returned to home port in Key West Sunday following a 68-day Eastern Pacific counter-drug patrol.

The cutter Thetis crew worked alongside the Pacific Tactical Law Enforcement Team, an aviation detachment from the Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron and a Royal Canadian Navy maritime coastal defense vessel in support of Operation Martillo seizing 6,755 kilograms of cocaine and 14 pounds of marijuana during eight separate interdictions that resulted in the apprehension of 24 suspected smugglers.

While on patrol on November 19, the cutter launched its Over the Horizon small boat to investigate a debris field. The boat crew discovered a large sea turtle entangled in multiple bales of suspected contraband.

Coast Guard Ens. Mark Krebs, the pursuit mission commander, said that as his team arrived on scene with the jettison field, they immediately noticed the entangled sea turtle. They saw significant chaffing from the lines on his neck and flippers. They briefed the commanding officer and went to work, carefully cutting the lines wrapped around the sea turtle and then eventually freeing him.

The boat crew recovered over 75-feet of line to prevent further entanglement of sea life and returned to the law enforcement mission recovering over 1,800 pounds of cocaine valued at over $53 million dollars from international waters.

During this patrol, the combined efforts of the cutter Thetis crew, Joint Interagency Task Force South, HITRON, PACTACLET and other Coast Guard assets eliminated nearly seven tons of illicit narcotics with a street value over $135 million dollars that pose a threat to national security and regional stability.

Operation Martillo is a U.S., European and Western Hemisphere partner-nation effort launched in January 2012 targeting illicit trafficking routes in coastal waters along the Central American isthmus.

Operation Martillo demonstrates a clear commitment of the Western Hemisphere and European nations to work as partners to counter the spread of transnational criminal organizations and to protect citizens in Central America from the violence, harm and exploitation created by these criminal networks.

Operation Martillo is an international, interagency operation that includes the participation of 18 countries committed to a regional approach against transnational criminal organizations moving illicit cargo. To date, partner nation efforts have contributed to 57 percent of all disruptions to illicit trafficking and 60 percent of the metric tons captured as part of the Operation Martillo initiative.