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Lawmakers Request Briefing on Panga Boat Smuggling

01/02/2013 -

Panga fishing boat smuggling is on the rise off the coast of California and recent events have spurred lawmakers to request a meeting with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

According to the Malibu Times, Congressman Henry Waxman and other members of Calfornia's Congressional delegation wrote to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano "to express concern about increased panga boat smuggling activity along the Southern California coast and request a briefing on how the federal government is improving coastal security."

The Los Angeles Times reports that the panga boats have become popular among drug and human smugglers. Panga boats are light and inexpensive, so they can be abandoned after the operation. The Malibu Times states that maritime smuggling off Southern California has increased since 2008:

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) recorded 210 incidents in 2012, up from 121 incidents in 2010. During the past two months alone, there have been 20 percent more smuggling events than the over same time period the previous year. 

Additionally, in December, a U.S. Coast Guard officer was killed when his boat wasrammed by the panga boat his boat was pursuing.

According to the Malibu Times, the smugglers are currently being handled by a combination of agencies:

The Department of Homeland Security’s Central California Maritime Agency Coordination Group in the Malibu area consists of the California National Guard Counter Drug Task Force, U.S. Coast Guard, DHS (which includes ICE), Homeland Security Investigations, Los Angeles County Fire Department (including lifeguards), California State Parks and LA County Sheri f f ’s Department. The National Guard, for example, has access to high-powered night vision surveillance equipment not readily available to the sheriff ’s department. 

A statement from Waxman''s office states, "'It is critical that our borders andour coasts are secure from drug and human trafficking and I’m committed to ensuring that federal, state and local officials have sufficient resources to combat this illegal activity.'"

photo byMat Honan/flickr