On Sunday morning, crew members from the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Alert recovered approximately 3.3 tons of marijuana floating in the Pacific Ocean near the Channel Islands.

During a routine patrol, a Coast Guard aircraft based in Sacramento spotted a suspected smugglers’ boat 90 miles west of San Nicolas Island, which prompted the traffickers to begin throwing the 245 bales of marijuana overboard and flee south at high speeds. The crew of Alert was able to respond to the scene and collect the jettisoned marijuana, while the smuggling boat itself got away.

According to a Coast Guard press release, occurrences of drug smuggling and human trafficking are relatively common in the area.

“The persistent presence of Coast Guard assets, along with those of our law enforcement partners, off of California’s shores, is essential to stop the pangas smuggling people and drugs into the U.S.,” 11th Coast Guard District Commander Rear Admiral Karl Schultz said in the press release. “The Sinaloa cartel and other criminal organizations are exploiting these sea routes to move their illicit cargo and fund their broader illegal enterprises.”

According to Coast Guard officials, the shipment is worth approximately hundreds of thousands of dollars.

This event comes after numerous incidents of drug-smuggling panga boats washing up on the shores of California, including a recent episode in March at the Vandenberg Air Force Base in Lompoc, in which about $1 million of marijuana was found. A panga boat was also discovered on Goleta Beach in January, but no signs of narcotics were discovered.



A version of this article appeared on page 7 of the April 4rth, 2013’s print edition of the Nexus