Authorities seize over 2,000 pounds of marijuana on California beach

REUTERS/Alejandro Acosta

 (REUTERS/Alejandro Acosta)

Federal and local authorities are still reportedly on the hunt for several people connected to a seizure of more than 2,000 pounds of marijuana off the Santa Barbara County coast in California Friday. 

NBC LA reports 18 people have so far been arrested in connection with the attempted smuggling operation involving a small fishing boat and a truck, but others were able to elude police on foot. 

The California National Guard reportedly first spotted nearly 24 people unloading bales of what it believed was marijuana from a so-called “panga" boat at Arroya Quemada Beach early Friday morning. 

When sheriff’s deputies descended, the smugglers high-tailed it from the scene, with some of the alleged conspirators hiding on the beach for hours before police could apprehend them, NBC LA reports. 

Homeland Security agents later reportedly stopped a truck in Camarillo that was eventually linked to the intercepted panga boat, but some in the truck fled on foot – and still remain at large. 

NBC LA reports the incident is one of a growing number involving the pangas, which are small fishing boats drug and human traffickers use to bring illicit cargo into the U.S. from Mexico. 

The station cites data from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in noting there have been 10 panga-boat busts in Santa Barbara County, alone, since October 2012. 

In all, NBC LA reports, close to 10,000 pounds of pot have been seized in connection with those incidents.

Click for more from NBC LA.