Bales of drugs wash up on Treasure Coast beaches

Square grouper and white lobster have been washing up on Treasure Coast beaches. But they’re not delicacies you’ll be seeing in area restaurants. Those are the terms given to heavily wrapped bales of marijuana or cocaine appearing on local beaches over the past month.
Since Sept. 3, more than 500 pounds of drugs — mostly marijuana — have come ashore or been found in the water from Brevard to Palm Beach counties. “We don’t get drugs washing up on beaches here too often,” said Sgt. Thom Raulen, Indian River County Sheriff’s Office spokesman. “But it does happen from time to time.”

Officials don’t know if the marijuana bales are part of the same missing load or individual occurrences. None of the packages had distinctive markings that could indicate its origin, officials said. Any fingerprints had been washed away by salt water. Authorities suspect the drugs could be a failed attempt from smugglers to deliver their stock. “It could have come from a cigarette boat that was about to get caught and they dumped their load,” said Sgt. Scott Pascarella, spokesman for the Jupiter Police Department.

“There is a remote chance that it could have been a drop from an airplane for a dealer to pick up later,” Raulen said. “But because there were three or four counties involved, it could be a vessel that dumped its load.” Indian River County has the most incidents of found marijuana bales. On Sept. 16 two bales, totaling 15 pounds were found on a beach near Johns Island Club in Indian River Shores. Later that day, 10 pounds of marijuana were found nearby at Golden Sands Beach Park. “The packages were like rectangular seaweed,” Raulen said. The biggest cache was Sept. 29 in Jupiter, where a fisherman found several bales that collectively total 400 pounds of marijuana scattered along the beach.

A fisherman called police after spotting several burlap bags lining the shore in the 3000 block of State Road A1A. Jupiter police found eight sacks containing 75 packages on the beach between Walkover 26 and 32. “Apparently the tide was flowing just right for it to wash up in Jupiter,” Pasacarella said. The packages were taken to a Pompano Beach facility where they were incinerated. The area’s sole reported catch of “white lobster” occurred Sept. 3 during a fishing trip of three friends. The friends said they were fishing 8 miles northeast of the St. Lucie Inlet when the saw a red, soft-sided cooler floating in the water.

They reeled in the cooler and saw it contained 16 vacuum-sealed packages of cocaine, weighing about 41.5 pounds with a street value of $500,000. The trio declined to comment for this story citing concerns of retaliation from the owner of the stash. Law enforcement said they advise residents not to touch suspicious packages, but to report it to the authorities. “If it’s in the surf just keep an eye on it and call local law enforcement,” Raulen said. “If it is a drug that can be absorbed through the skin, like cocaine, we don’t want anyone to be exposed to that.” Officials at the U.S. Coast Guard could not be reached for comment.

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