SAN DIEGO -- About 11 tons of cocaine seized off the coast of Central and South America were unloaded in San Diego Thursday morning, U.S. Coast Guard officials said.
The drugs were discovered on suspected drug-smuggling pangas during 15 U.S. Coast Guard operations from mid-June through July, officials said.
The U.S. Coast Guard cutters that seized the combined load were Alert, Reliance, Tampa, Vigorous and Sherman.
The bails of cocaine were unloaded off Sherman, a Hawaiian-based, 378-foot high vessel, at Naval Base San Diego on Thursday.
"The diligence of these cutter crews, as well as the air crews and operations support crews ashore, has stopped tons of drugs from reaching our streets," said Rear Adm. Todd Sokalzuk, commander of the 11th Coast Guard District. "Their success disrupts the violent criminal organizations that ship these drugs and saves lives here at home."
The 11-ton load, while "definitely a pretty good amount," is actually the smallest combined cocaine seizure in the past year, Coast Guard spokesman Petty Officer Joel Guzman said. He noted the biggest amount ever collected in a single Coast Guard mission was 35 tons last August, followed by other seizures of 25, 14 and 21 tons.
Since October, U.S. Coast Guard crews have seized more than 81 tons of cocaine and taken 329 suspected drug smugglers into custody in the eastern Pacific Ocean.