Endangered sea turtle found entangled in cocaine bundles worth $53 million!

An endangered sea turtle found its freedom after being an unintended but unfortunate victim of the war on drugs.

                            Endangered sea turtle found entangled in cocaine bundles worth $53 million!

The United States Coast Guard Cutter Thetis discovered 1,800lb — worth over $53 million — of cocaine after coming across a sea turtle who was trapped amidst the floating blocks in the Eastern Pacific Ocean. 

The large loggerhead sea turtle, an endangered species, was found entangled in the messy blocks; literally on cocaine and injured with 'significant chaffing from the lines on his neck and flippers.'  

Crew members aboard the Thetis resolved to investigate a pile of debris that was spotted by a military plane. Upon closer inspection, they discovered 26 packages of cocaine strung together with a sea turtle trapped in between.

The crew immediately set to work upon freeing the poor turtle, cutting it loose from its misery. The turtle had likely been trapped for a couple of days, Commander Jose Diaz told NBC News.

After freeing the loggerhead, they seized the drugs, following the recovery of a 75-feet line that was removed in order to prevent other sea creatures from getting entangled. 

The loggerhead sea turtle is an endangered species. Source: Wikipedia

The cocaine weighed a combined total of more than 1,800lb. This is worth over 53$ M on the streets. While rescuing turtles on cocaine is an unusual affair, fleets of cocaine aren't.

The Thetis is a part of Operation Martillo, an international anti-drug operation launched on 15 January 2012, as an effort to successfully combat drug trafficking along the Central American coast. The operation involves 18 countries. 

The Thetis came across the turtle during a 68-day mission.

The sea turtle was entangled in blocks of packaged cocaine injured and helpless. (Source: YouTube)

The injured sea turtle was cut loose by the coast guard crew who then seized the bundles of cocaine. (Source: YouTube)

Traditionally, cocaine was a rich man's drug but by the late 1980s, cocaine was no longer the drug for the wealthy as it took its reputation to the streets of America as the most dangerous and addictive drug linked with crime, poverty, and death. 

While much of the drug abuse in the United States has recently been centered around heroin and the opioid epidemic, cocaine has been making a steady comeback! It's a simple case of supply driving demand; with the outburst of Colombia's illegal coca crop, the market boom is slowly spreading its way through the streets of America.

Colombia is the main supplier of cocaine to the United States (Source: Pinterest)

According to a report by the Drug Enforcement Administration, the use of cocaine in the US dropped significantly between 2009 and 2013 but has been increasing steadily since. "The United States can expect to see increased levels of cocaine supply and use, at least through 2018," the DEA mentioned further in the report. 

2013 to 2015 saw a whopping increase in the number of young Americans under the drug's influence. The number of cocaine overdose deaths was highest in 2015 after 2006. 

Opioid-related deaths, however, rank far higher than those of cocaine. The epidemic is the deadliest drug crisis in American history. Opioid overdoses were the leading cause of death in America, killing roughly over 64,000 people last year. This is something to be feared over guns and accidents, spreading at a rate faster than the H.I.V epidemic ever did during its peak. 

The opioid epidemic is the deadliest drug crisis in American history. (Source: Shutterstock)

As the drug makes a comeback, efforts are being made in monitoring and interrupting the illicit drug trafficking. 

Operation Martillo is a critical component of the U.S. government. Since its launch, Martillo has seized 693 metric tons of cocaine, $25 million in bulk cash, detained 581 vessels and aircrafts, and arrested 1,863 detainees. In the Eastern Pacific, the Thetis helped seize 14,892lb (6,755kg) of cocaine and 14lb of marijuana in eight interceptions that led to the arrests of 24 suspected smugglers.

Members of the Coast Guard Cutter Hamilton crew stand next to approximately 26.5 tons of cocaine December 15, 2016 aboard the cutter at Port Everglades Cruiseport in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. It was worth an estimated $715 million wholesale seized in international waters off the Eastern Pacific Ocean since October 1, 2016. (US Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Eric Woodall)

Operation Martillo is a multi-national, interagency, and joint military operation, with strong support from the Departments of Homeland Security (particularly the Coast Guard), Treasury, State, Justice, and Defense. SOUTHCOM itself provides two significant assets to Operation Martillo: the ships, sailors and aircraft of the U.S. 4th Fleet, and a unique unit known as the Joint Interagency Task Force – South (JIATF–S).

U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Joshua Coaker, right, assigned to the cutter USCGC Paul Clark (WPC 1106), stands guard as drugs seized as part of Operation Martillo are unloaded at Coast Guard Base Miami Beach, Fla., August 16, 2014. (DoD photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Sabrina Laberdesque, US Coast Guard)

Most nations in the Southern Command have maritime access, with strong routes for trade and transit. They, however, are also the primary routes for transnational organized crime (TOC) organizations to ship their various illegal products into North America, Africa, and Europe.

USCGC Forward (WMEC 911) approaches Naval Station Mayport, Fla., September 20, 2013, as part of Operation Martillo. The crew transported more than 2,000 pounds of cocaine seized by a Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachment embarked aboard the guided-missile frigate USS Rentz (FFG 46) about 260 nautical miles north of the Galapagos Islands.(DoD photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Anthony L. Soto, US Coast Guard /Released)

The transport vessels nowadays are advanced enough to come in several forms of small “go fast” boats and self-propelled semi-submersible vessels. Their favored routes usually run close to the Pacific and Gulf mouths of the Panama Canal, where they can easily mingle in the crowd of merchant ships normally located there.

Although Operation Martillo and other SOUTHCOM efforts have intercepted close to 50 percent of the cocaine headed to North America in the past years, they are also inadvertently helping drive the remaining product in transit ashore, giving wind to the present-day bloody Cartel wars in Central America and Mexico.

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