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Smuggling drugs by boat into San Diego

The San Diego/Tijuana border area is a dangerous place, and a part of Seagate’s World.

During the day, the beaches along the San Diego coast are known for surfers and tourists (and sometimes Seals in training) enjoying the mild weather and afternoon sun. However, when the sun goes down, an entirely different sport takes place along this coast … the game of smuggling drugs and people into the U.S.  from Mexico.  As infiltration by land becomes more difficult, the use of vessels to bring in drugs and immigrants has increased dramatically in 2012.

Coronado beach with a drug skiff coming ashore

In 2011, there was an average of one boat captured by U.S. law enforcement personnel every other day. So far in 2012 the number of vessels captured has increased by 50%. The type and size of vessel can vary, from small fishing skiffs called “pangas” to 30-40 ft sailboats and motorboats. Sometimes of course the drugs can be hidden on large commercial vessels.  The type of vessel chosen by the smuggler is determined by the method they wish to employ. A stolen sailboat of motorboat may be used in order to blend in with the local recreational boat traffic. The “pangas” are used when the smuggler wishes to make a run directly onto a beach where their associates are waiting to transfer the drugs or immigrants into waiting cars or vans. Typically the people waiting on land also act as spotters, alerting the boats to the danger of any enforcement activity nearby.

This smuggling activity is run by very sophisticated drug cartels. With the demise of the Arellano Felix family that had controlled the Tijuana gateway into the U.S. until 2006, an offshoot from the Arellanos called the Sinaloa Cartel has taken over this territory.  The stakes are very high. Individual boats can carry loads worth many millions of dollars.

Pictured below is one of the smallest vessels used for smuggling.  It floated ashore empty and abandoned in August and was dragged up to a guard tower on Coronado. This is a fiberglass vessel measuring 8 ft. in length.

Mexican drug skiff next to guard tower

Upon closer inspection, notice that the stern (back) half of the boat was modified with a water-tight compartment for hauling its drugs.  There is room for only one and possibly two people in the front.  Normally the stern area is open with seating for 2 more people. The towline that was used to bring this boat close to shore was cut once the boat was near shore.  This trip was actually a successful smuggling run because neither drugs nor smugglers were captured.

Mexican drug skiff fitted with watertight compartment

The photo below is of a Trumpetfish hovering above a reef waiting for smaller fish to swim by for a tasty meal. The Trumpetfish has the ability to change colors to camouflage themselves.  These fish are usually very tame and will allow the approach of divers. The coral reef in the background is showing some deterioration due to “bleaching”(whitening), due to higher levels of carbon dioxide being absorbed into the oceans and increased water temperatures.

Trumpetfish on reef that is bleaching

Underwater Sound button [audio:http://www.seagateworld.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/underwater.mp3|titles=underwater|loop=yes]

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