Coast Guard seizes more than half a ton of marijuana

Coast Guard Cutter Sea Otter crew members tow in a panga after the successful interagency efforts interdicted approximately nearly 1,300 pounds of marijuana 120 miles south of San Diego, March 10, 2015. A Customs and Border Protection aircraft crew first spotted the panga and a Coast Guard Station San Diego crew stopped the vessel. (U.S. Coast Guard photo Petty Officer 2nd Class Rob Simpson/released)

Coast Guard Cutter Sea Otter crew members tow in a panga after the successful interagency efforts interdicted approximately nearly 1,300 pounds of marijuana 120 miles south of San Diego, March 10, 2015. (U.S. Coast Guard photo Petty Officer 2nd Class Rob Simpson)

SAN DIEGO — The U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Customs and Border Protection prevented an estimated 1,300 pounds of marijuana from reaching U.S. shores when they thwarted a smuggling attempt southwest of San Diego, Tuesday morning.

While on patrol, a CBP Office of Air and Marine Multi-role Enforcement Aircraft crew detected a panga underway with three people aboard and suspicious packages in international waters approximately 120 miles south of San Diego.

A HC-130 aircraft crew relieved the CBP aircraft crew to track the panga while a Coast Guard Station San Diego 45-foot Response Boat-Medium boat crew and the Coast Guard Cutter Sea Otter launched to interdict the panga.

When the RB-M crew arrived on scene, the three suspected smugglers attempted to flee and began throwing contraband overboard. During a brief pursuit and failure to heave to after being ordered to do so, the Coast Guard crews utilized warning shots and engine-disabling fire to stop the panga and detain the suspects.

The Sea Otter crew recovered 54 bales from the water and aboard the panga, weighing an estimated 1,300 pounds.

The Sea Otter towed the panga, contraband and suspected smugglers to San Diego, California and turned them over to the interagency Marine Task Force.

“Transnational organized crime can pose significant risks to our Nation,” said Capt. Jonathan Spaner, Commander of U.S. Coast Guard Sector San Diego. “We are committed to combating illicit activities as far from our shorelines as possible through coordinated interagency efforts. I am profoundly proud of our crews, and grateful for the tremendous cooperation of our government partners in the United States and Mexico.”

Regional Coordinating Mechanisms are comprised of U.S. Customs and Border Protection Offices of Field Operations, Air and Marine and Border Patrol, Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations, U.S. Coast Guard and other federal, state and local partners working together as force multipliers. ReCoMs utilize the fusion of intelligence, planning and operations to target the threat of transnational crime along the U.S. maritime border.

The Sea Otter is an 87-foot Coast Guard cutter home ported in San Diego.

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