The Coast Guard has set a new record for cocaine seizures at sea for the second consecutive year, an effort that admirals are linking to border security as they look to build new ships while President Trump presses for a border wall, the Washington Post reports. The agency highlighted the record Wednesday in San Diego alongside Attorney General Jeff Sessions as it offloaded 50,550 pounds of cocaine and a smaller amount of heroin from the USCGC Stratton, a 418-foot cutter. The drugs were confiscated by four Coast Guard cutters and the Navy destroyer USS Chaffee in the eastern Pacific Ocean, a longtime trafficking route from South and Central America.
The Coast Guard has seized more than 455,000 pounds of cocaine through Sept. 11 in the fiscal year that ends Oct. 1, breaking the record of 443,790 pounds set last year. About 85 percent of that comes from the eastern Pacific. The Coast Guard also has detained at least 681 suspected smugglers in those operations, up from 585 last year and 503 in 2015. Admiral Paul Zukunft, the Coast Guard commandant, said massive offloads of drugs are starting to become “just another day in the service.” The amount of cocaine on the high seas has exploded since the Colombian government halted the aerial eradication of coca plants through spraying in 2015, and rebels with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) encouraged farmers to grow more in anticipation of government aid granted in a peace deal.