It refers for the most part to the Southern California coastal counties of Ventura, Los Angeles, Orange, and San Diego due to the cosmopolitan "SoCal" atmosphere and location of major urban coastal centers. Of these counties only the western two-thirds of San Diego, coastal half of Ventura, most of Los Angeles and all of Orange are included.
However, some sources include the western part of Riverside, and southwestern part of San Bernardino Counties, and the northwestern corner of Baja California, because of their proximity to the Pacific Coast and because they are in the same bio-region and watershed.[unreliable source?]
During the prohibition era the waters of the South Coast were a popular smuggling route in for alcohol. With increased security at the Mexico–United States border smuggling has increased; during the 2011 fiscal year, more than 200 smuggling vessels were observed. Most of the vessels attempt to off load their cargo of drugs and/or illegal immigrants in San Diego County; however, destinations are as far north as the California Central Coast. Often, vessels used for smuggling operations are abandoned upon making landfall.
Most often smuggling utilizes small boats, often Pangas. Additionally, larger craft are utilized, either having crew members smuggling illicit items aboard, or hiding illicit items in shipping containers. In one case, a Narco-submarine was caught near the Channel Islands. In March 2018, the United States Coast Guard estimates it only interdicts a quarter of what is smuggled to the United States through the Pacific Ocean.
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- "Three Californias Rationale". www.phrelin.com. Retrieved 10 April 2018.
- Ian Lovett (9 December 2012). "Land Routes Blocked, Smuggling Rises Sharply on California Coast". New York Times. Archived from the original on 8 February 2013. Retrieved 29 December 2012.
- Jennewein, Chris (28 August 2014). "Panga Boat Carrying 20 Caught off Oceanside". Times of San diego. Retrieved 26 September 2014.
Garske, Monica (26 September 2014). "Several Arrested After Panga Boat Washes Ashore". KNSD. Retrieved 26 September 2014.
Hayden, Tyler (3 February 2012). "More and More Smugglers Take to the Sea". Independent. Santa Barbara. Retrieved 6 May 2018.
Gaynor, Tim (11 August 2008). "Mexico smugglers ply sea route to California". Reuters. Retrieved 6 May 2008.
- Van Slyke, Matt (7 March 2018). "Panga drug smuggling boat found on local beach". KSBY. San Luis Obispo. Retrieved 6 May 2018.
Swanston, Brenna (24 May 2017). "Another panga boat discovered on local beach". Sun. Santa Maria. Retrieved 6 May 2018.
- Jill Replogle (20 December 2012). "For Boat Captain, Rescuing Maritime Smugglers Is Part Of The Job". KPBS. Retrieved 28 December 2012.
Winkley, Lyndsay (25 August 2014). "7 who fled from washed up panga located". San Diego Union Tribune. MLIM Company. Retrieved 25 August 2014.
- Kryt, Jeremy (26 August 2017). "What Will Billions for The Wall Get Us? 'Boat People' on America's Coasts". Daily Beast. New York, New York. Retrieved 6 May 2018.
- Serna, Joseph (21 September 2017). "More than 50,000 pounds of cocaine and heroin seized by Coast Guard crews in Pacific since August". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 6 May 2018.
- "US, Mexico Launch Major Maritime Drug Smuggling Crackdown". KPIX. San Francisco. Associated Press. 29 March 2018. Retrieved 6 May 2018.