The US Coast Guard saved a sea turtle while seizing 26 bales of cocaine, which was floating in the ocean in Key West, Florida.
Commander Jose Diaz told NBC News that the bales of cocaine were spotted by a military plane. They were strung together, and Diaz thinks they were likely thrown out of a vessel by smugglers.
"They probably felt the heat coming and got rid of it," Diaz said.
A sea turtle got caught up in the floating string of cocaine and was unable to break free.
"There were some marks on her neck, so she may have been there a day or two," Diaz Told NBC.
Ensign Mark Krebs, the mission commander, and his team found and cut the sea turtle free. He said he witnessed “significant chafing from the lines on his neck and flippers,” according to the Miami Herald.
A press release from the US Coast Guard stated that the team “carefully [cut] the lines wrapped around the sea turtle and then eventually [freed] him.”
After freeing the turtle, the cocaine was seized by the US Coast Guard. The confiscated cocaine is estimated to be worth more than $53 million.
“The boat crew recovered over 75-feet of line to prevent further entanglement of sea life and returned to the law enforcement mission recovering over 1,800 pounds of cocaine,” the press release stated.
The turtle is a loggerhead turtle, known for its large head, a species that is considered “close to endangered,” according to Newsweek. The Sea Turtle Conservancy lists the species as “threatened,” which means in the near future the turtles may become “endangered.”
Entanglement like the stringed-together cocaine bales is one of the many dangers this turtle species faces. According to Newsweek, the sea turtles often get caught up in fishing lines, nets and plastic pollution.