SAN DIEGO (CNS) - U.S. and Mexican authorities captured a boat smuggling about one ton of marijuana in international waters off the coast of San Diego, U.S. Coast Guard officials announced Saturday.
A counter-smuggling task force made up of the USCG, Border Patrol and the Mexican Navy stopped the boat early Thursday morning in international waters about 150 miles southwest of San Diego, according to a statement by USCG officials.
A Border Patrol aircraft detected the suspicious boat early Thursday morning and alerted USCG officials, who sent the Coast Guard Cutter Terrapin to intercept, according to the USCG. A C-130 Hercules aircraft crew from Coast Guard Station Sacramento flew in to support the Terrapin, an 87-foot patrol boat based in Bellingham, Washington.
The Terrapin's crew found three suspected smugglers and 90 bales of marijuana weighing about 2,000 pounds onboard the small boat, called a panga.
The suspects claimed Mexican nationality, and were turned over to the Mexican Navy about 9:30 a.m. Thursday along with the drugs and the boat, the officials said.
"This is another outstanding example of the strong interagency and international partnerships and cooperation we maintain to stem the flow of smuggling," said Rear Adm. Joseph Servidio, commander of the 11th Coast Guard District. "It is gratifying to see such positive results from our training, exercises and planning with Mexico under the North American Maritime Security Initiative."
A panga is a small fishing vessel -- usually between 18 and 35 feet -- with an outboard motor. Law enforcement officials have reportedly found 14 panga boats deserted on Central California beaches since May 2012, and officials believe the boats were used to smuggle drugs or people from Mexico.
On August 1, Coast Guard crews captured two pangas and four suspected smugglers carrying about 12,000 pounds of marijuana about 180 miles southwest of San Diego.