A giant sea turtle had to be rescued by the U.S. Coast Guard after it became entangled in a rope attached to packages filled with millions of dollars of cocaine on Tuesday.
The Coast Guard cutter Thetis, which is stationed in Key West, Florida, was on a 68-day deployment when it came across the turtle trying to escape from 26 bales of cocaine.
The crew noticed a large debris field on Tuesday while on a patrol, and discovered the turtle stuck among the bales which the Coast Guard estimates contain over $53 million of cocaine.
The turtle suffered from “significant chafing” its neck and flippers. The team carefully and successfully cut the lines of the rope wrapped around it and set it free, while recovering over 75-feet of line. The crew returned 1,800 pounds of cocaine to authorities once they reached shore.
It is not thought that the drugs were intentionally attached to the sea creature but rather that it swam into the ropes fastened to the cocaine.
Commander Jose Diaz told NBC News no suspects connected to the turtle’s ordeal have been arrested, but smugglers likely left the contraband in a hurry.
“They probably felt the heat coming and got rid of it,” he said of the smugglers.
He continued, saying the turtle was likely entangled for about a day or two.
The cutter Thetis is part of Operation Martillo — an international effort launched in 2012 to target drug trafficking routes along the Central American coast.
In its most recent patrol, the operation seized 7 tons of cocaine worth over $135 million, according to a release by the Coast Guard.