After declaring the mystery cocaine that had been washing up on New South Wales beaches was likely depleted, another 50kg (110 pounds) of the Class A narcotic has since been discovered.
Almost 40kg (88 pounds) of the drug was found in one location when 39 bricks were uncovered in a single package that washed ashore on a beach in Botany this week.
Lifeguards in North Bondi also found a package floating in waters in their patrol area on New Year’s Day.
After the initial finds, leading up to the New Year, police said the majority of the cocaine had likely been discovered as most cargo ship hauls, which police believe the cocaine to be from, contained about 120kg (264 pounds) of the drug.
However, the latest confirmed findings take the total to 170kg (374 pounds) of the drug handed into police since December 22.
Despite the initial discovery days earlier, it wasn’t until Christmas Eve that police first issued a public warning about the packages, as more of the drug began washing up on Sydney’s northern beaches all the way up to Newcastle.
To date, packages have been found at Blacksmiths Beach, Pelican Beach, Pantaloon Bay, Magenta Beach, Avoca Beach, Barrenjoey Headland, Ocean Beach, Manly Beach, North Bondi, and Botany.
Other large quantities that have been found in one location include 39 kg (85 pounds) found on Boxing Day when a fisherman at Barrenjoey Headland found a blue barrel floating off the coast and 39 sealed bricks found in a single package that washed up at Newcastle Ocean Baths on the same day.
NSW Police State Crime Command director Jason Weinstein told the ABC the belief was the shipment had originated in South America and cargo ships were a preferred method of smuggling the drug.
“We know syndicates will use a number of methods through shipping containers,” he said.
“Sometimes we do see where items are deliberately tossed into the ocean to be picked up by another vessel.
“The reason it’s appearing now was probably due to the tropical storm in North Queensland and the significant rough seas and king tides in the last few weeks.”
It is not clear whether the packages that have been washing up on beaches were tossed overboard or were lost in some form of accident, but due to the presence of barnacles on some of the discoveries it is believed they have been in the water for some time.
Weinstein also asked people not to go searching for remaining packages after a duo had to be rescued by water police in Pittwater while allegedly conducting their own search.
“If someone is caught in possession of one of these bricks, it’s a large commercial quantity and that carries 25 years to life imprisonment, so it’s a significant penalty,” he said.