The U.S. Coast Guard offloaded more than 66,000 pounds of cocaine worth just over $1 billion from the USCGC Stratton in San Diego on Monday in what is believed to be the largest known cocaine offload in Coast Guard history.
The drugs were seized from smugglers in the Eastern Pacific Ocean in 23 separate interdictions by U.S. Coast Guard cutters and Coast Guard law enforcement teams operating from U.S. Navy vessels in known drug transit zones near Central and South America.
The U.S. Coast Guard announced on Friday that the U.S. and its allies operating in the Eastern Pacific Ocean have seized more than 119,000 pounds of cocaine worth over $1.8 billion wholesale in the last 10 months, more than they did in fiscal years 2012, 2013 and 2014 combined. During this same time, 215 suspected smugglers were apprehended.
According to the Coast Guard, 2015 is the most successful fiscal year for counter drug operations in the Eastern Pacific since 2009 when the Coast Guard seized 86,936 pounds of cocaine.
“This is about more than just trying to keep drugs off U.S. streets,” said Commandant of the Coast Guard, Adm. Paul Zukunft, during a media event Monday to announce the recent hauls. “The cultivation, trafficking and distribution of narcotics fuels violence and instability throughout the Western Hemisphere, leaving a path of destruction directly to the door step of the U.S. We must continue to make progress in our effort to combat transnational organized crime networks to ensure safety and security in our hemisphere.”
The Coast Guard notes that the more than 66,000 pounds of cocaine offloaded from USCGC Stratton on Monday is equal to about 33 million lines of cocaine or 336 million hits of crack, according to DEA estimates. It is the largest known cocaine offload in Coast Guard history with an estimated wholesale value of more than of $1.01 billion, the Coast Guard said.
As part of the offload, Coast Guardsmen turned over 21,000 pounds of cocaine seized by the crew of Stratton during the interdiction of two different self-propelled semi-submersibles.
Last week, the U.S. Coast Guard released new photos showing a major cocaine haul from a semi-submersible off the coast of Central America last month. The Coast Guard says that crews from the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Stratton stopped the self-propelled 40-foot vessel July 18, 2015 and recovered more than 12,000 pound of cocaine worth an estimated $181 million wholesale.