Sea Turtle Tangled in Cocaine Packages Worth $53M Rescued

A sea turtle tangled up with 26 cocaine bales worth $53 million was rescued from the Pacific Ocean in November by the U.S. Coast Guard.

A military plane spotted the bales, which looked like debris floating in the water, NBC News reported. The Coast Guard cutter Thetis launched a small boat, which discovered the loggerhead turtle stuck among the lines holding the bales together.

The cutter seized the drugs once the turtle had been set free and had swum off safely, NBC reported. There were more than 800 kilos (1,800 pounds) of cocaine worth more than $53 million, authorities said. 

Officials think the cocaine was thrown overboard when a patrol got too close, NBC reported.

Even though opioids are the largest and newest threat today, cocaine is becoming more available in the U.S. and use is rising, in some cases passing levels that have not been seen for up to a decade, according to the DEA, NBC News reported.

The cutter was part of Operation Martillo, which has patroled the waters since 2012. The operation seized a total of 14,800 pounds of cocaine and 14 pounds of marijuana on its latest patrol before returning to Key West on Sunday, Fox News reported. The drug seizures also resulted in 24 arrests.

Chafing on the turtle’s neck and flippers suggested it had been stuck in the lines for up to a day or two, Ensign Mark Krebs said, the Miami Herald reported. The crew also removed 75 more feet of line from the water to prevent other sea animals from becoming trapped.