Pat Foy, DFG Law Enforcement, (916) 651-2084
Mark Crossland, DFG Law Enforcement, (805) 594-6198
A Department of Fish and Game (DFG) warden discovered a drug running boat and a large quantity of marijuana north of Morro Bay Thursday.
The warden was investigating a vehicle parked in an unusual location near the northern boundary of the Piedras Blancas Marine Protected Area (MPA) in the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary when he spotted the 30-foot “Panga” boat beached on the sand. He followed fresh human footprints leading away from the boat and found 22 bales of marijuana nearby.
The boat was abandoned but held multiple plastic barrels containing more than 400 gallons of fuel for the outboard engines. Because it was a potential pollution hazard, wardens from DFG’s Office of Spill Prevention and Response arrived to facilitate cleanup. Food, water, clothing and other supplies were also found inside the boat.
Several other agencies including California State Parks, California Highway Patrol and the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office responded to remove the fuel barrels and drugs, and tow the boat off the beach.
Police from all the involved agencies searched near the boat and the surrounding area with officers, dogs all-terrain vehicles and a helicopter, but no suspects or additional evidence were found.
The Panga is a type of modest-sized, open, outboard-powered fishing boat common throughout much of the developing world. They are considered extremely seaworthy and can go as fast as 35 miles per hour. Law enforcement personnel presume the drugs were being staged in the sand dunes for pickup, transport and eventual sale.
MPAs are primarily intended to protect or conserve marine life and habitat, and include state water quality protection area, state marine cultural preservation area and state marine recreational management areas. It is permissible to have a boat in the area but beaching a boat is highly unusual and typically indicative of distress or illegal activity.
The investigation is continuing.