Drugs

These Are the Four Wildest Drug Finds Off the Coast of Florida

Over the years, illegal drugs — lots of them — have been seized or discovered off Florida's shorelines.
Over the years, illegal drugs — lots of them — have been seized or discovered off Florida's shorelines. Courtesy U.S. Coast Guard
Last week the U.S. Coast Guard seized what it deemed to be a whopping $1.4 billion worth of cocaine and weed — a haul that officials hailed as the largest drug bust in the branch's history. More than 60,000 pounds of illegal drugs were confiscated from traffickers in the Caribbean and in the Pacific off Mexico, Central America, and South America and then unloaded at Port Everglades on August 5.

Florida has long served as a popular entry point for drug cartels from South and Central America. Over the years, illegal drugs — lots of them — have been seized or discovered off Florida's shorelines. Bales of drugs have also notoriously washed up on the state's beaches from time to time.

From a sea turtle entangled in cocaine to a Good Samaritan snorkeler, here are four of the strangest drug-recovery stories off the Florida coast.
click to enlarge Coast guard members work to free the entangled turtle from the bundles of drugs. - COURTESY U.S. COAST GUARD
Coast guard members work to free the entangled turtle from the bundles of drugs.
Courtesy U.S. Coast Guard

Narco Turtle

In November 2017, the U.S. Coast Guard seized roughly $53 million worth of cocaine in the ocean near Key West from a giant sea turtle. The turtle was trapped amid the bundles of drugs and believed to be completely innocent, and not some reptilian Walter White.


The Coast Guard crew found the turtle in the ocean during a two-month counter-drug mission in the eastern Pacific, according to NBC News. Crew members reported seeing "significant chafing" on the turtle's neck and flippers from the fishing lines. They eventually freed the creature after cutting it loose from the fishing lines. And, of course, confiscating the drugs. 

Cocaine Submarine

A dramatic video shot by the Jacksonville-based Coast Guard shows a high-speed chase that ended with crew members hopping atop a coke-filled submarine. A crew was patrolling the eastern Pacific in 2019 when it nabbed the 40-foot submarine headed to the U.S. with about 12,000 pounds of cocaine said to be worth more than $165 million.

The narco sub was discovered by maritime patrol aircraft, according to a U.S. Coast Guard press release. The four suspected smugglers aboard were arrested.

The drugs were eventually unloaded at the Miami Coast Guard station off the MacArthur Causeway.

White Christmas

It hasn't snowed in South Florida since 1977, but the 2019 holiday season seemed especially white after a fisherman discovered roughly 74 pounds of cocaine floating off the Lower Keys.


Police with the Monroe County Sheriff's Office recovered the drugs after receiving a call from the man, who spotted the packages while boating near Sugarloaf Key, according to the Miami Herald. Because the packages were found in federal waters, they were turned over to U.S. Border Patrol.

Snorkeling Samaritan

A snorkeler was swimming off the coast of the Florida Keys when he stumbled across more than $1.5 million worth of cocaine.
According to the Miami Herald, the Good Samaritan called local authorities after spotting a large bundle wrapped in tape floating in the water near Craig Key in the Middle Keys. The bale, police would later discover, contained nearly 70 pounds of coke. 
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Alex DeLuca is a fellow at Miami New Times.
Contact: Alex DeLuca