Coast Guard crews interdicted more than 50,000 pounds of cocaine with a street value of $729 million in the past two months, from boats headed to the United States from Central and South America, according to Coast Guard spokesman Chad Saylor.
The Coast Guard also arrested 57 suspected drug traffickers.
A fleet of Coast Guard boats returned from a deployment last week in the Eastern Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Basin. Both zones are used by drug cartels to transit drugs into the United States.
Suspected vessels are first detected by allied military forces or law enforcement personnel who then inform the Coast Guard. The responding crews then work on a case-by-case basis to intercept the vessel. In some cases, snipers aboard helicopters fire precision shots to disable engines on fast-moving boats.
Coast Guard Cutters (CGC) Alert, Steadfast, and Venturous seized most of the cocaine, with Hamilton, Mohawk, and Tampa contributing.
Coast Guard Cutter Steadfast offloaded more than 17,000 pounds of cocaine worth nearly $260 million wholesale in San Diego on Monday. The illicit haul came from two interdictions by Steadfast and two interdictions by Alert between late June and mid-July.
The Steadfast crew recovered more than 11,000 pounds of cocaine from a single fast-moving panga-style boat. The smugglers dumped their load and evaded capture after a high-speed chase, but the bales of cocaine recovered afterward added up to the largest interdiction since March 2016.
“I continue to be impressed by the dedication and tenacity of the crews aboard our cutters and the difficult, dangerous missions they perform,” Commander Alain Balmaceda, the commanding officer of the Steadfast, said in a press release.
“Their hard work means two things,” Balmaceda added. “First, more than eight tons of cocaine won’t reach our streets and add to the drug-related deaths and health problems facing our nation. And second, hundreds of millions of dollars are being denied to transnational criminal organizations who spread instability, death and despair wherever they operate.”