An entangled sea turtle was an innocent bystander when a Coast Guard crew discovered nearly a ton of cocaine bales floating in the eastern Pacific Ocean.

The 270’x38’x14.5’ medium endurance cutter Thetis was patrolling Nov. 19 when a floating debris field prompted the crew to launch its 26’ over the horizon (OTH) interceptor boat to investigate.

A Coast Guard crew arrives on scene with a jettison field and an entangled sea turtle during a 68-day Eastern Pacific counter drug patrol in 2017. Coast Guard photo.

A Coast Guard crew arrives on scene with an entangled sea turtle Coast Guard photo.

The boat crew discovered more than 1,800 lbs. of cocaine, likely jettisoned from a smuggling vessel, tied like fishing gear to a pair of small marker buoys – and a sea turtle tangled in the lines.

Ensign Mark Krebs and his crew reported the that turtle had suffered significant chafing on its neck and flippers from the tight lines, and carefully cut the animal free. They pulled 75’ of floating line out of the water along with the drug bales.

The Thetis returned to its Key West, Fla., homeport Sunday following the 68-day Pacific deployment, when the crew worked along with the U.S. Pacific Tactical Law Enforcement Team, an aviation detachment from the Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron, and the Royal Canadian Navy maritime coastal defense vessel Nanaimo. The cutter crew seized nearly 15,000 lbs. of cocaine and 14 lbs. of marijuana with an estimated street value of $135 million during eight separate interdictions, and apprehended 24 suspected smugglers.

Contributing Editor Kirk Moore was a reporter for the Asbury Park Press for over 30 years before joining WorkBoat in 2015. He wrote several award-winning stories on marine, environmental, coastal and military issues that helped drive federal and state government policy changes. He has also been an editor for WorkBoat’s sister publication, National Fisherman, for over 25 years. Moore was awarded the Online News Association 2011 Knight Award for Public Service for the “Barnegat Bay Under Stress,” 2010 series that led to the New Jersey state government’s restoration plan. He lives in West Creek, N.J.