SAN NICOLAS Island, Calif. — The crew of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Alert, a 210-foot cutter homeported in Astoria, recovered more than 3.3 tons of marijuana from the Pacific Ocean approximately 90 miles west of San Nicolas Island, Calif., Sunday morning.

A Sacramento-based Coast Guard C-130 Hercules aircraft located the suspected smugglers' vessel during a routine offshore patrol. The suspects began jettisoning bales as the boat sped south at a high rate of speed. The C-130 vectored the Alert to the area, where the crew recovered more than 245 bales of contraband.

"Thanks to our Coast Guard crews in the air and on the water, we disrupted this smuggling threat and recovered a huge amount of drugs today," said Cmdr. Daniel Pickles of the Alert. "I am proud to say that several thousand pounds of illegal drugs, worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, will be kept off our streets and away from our children."

Coast Guard and other agency crews regularly patrol the waters off of Southern California to detect, deter and disrupt the smuggling of illegal migrants and drugs and to help ensure the safety and security of the region. Boaters and coastal residents are encouraged to report any suspicious activity they observe to the Coast Guard or local police.

"The persistent presence of Coast Guard assets, along with those of our law enforcement partners, off of California's shores, is essential to stop the pangas smuggling people and drugs into the U.S.," said Rear Adm. Karl Schultz, 11th Coast Guard District Commander. "The Sinaloa cartel and other criminal organizations are exploiting these sea routes to move their illicit cargo and fund their broader illegal enterprises."

The Coast Guard Cutter Alert was commissioned on August 4, 1969. It was the last of the Coast Guard's 210-foot medium endurance cutters constructed. The 75 crewmembers conduct law enforcement, search and rescue and environmental protection missions from Alaska to the Eastern Pacific Ocean.

See Thursday's Daily Astorian for photos.