The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department has asked residents to be on the lookout for Mexican smuggling boats near the Santa Barbara coast after a Panga boat was found abandoned Wednesday off Gaviota.

Sheriff’s Department spokesman Drew Sugars said the the boat was empty but that there was evidence of narcotics trafficking.

Sugars said Panga boats are small open watercraft, generally 19 to 28 feet in length and powered by one or more outboard motors. They are commonly used by fishermen in developing countries but have become popular to smuggle contraband to the United States from Mexico.

The boat recovered off the Gaviota coast was 30 feet and was towed by the U.S. Coast Guard to be stored as evidence.

The Sheriff’s Department asks that anyone who sees suspicious boats off Santa Barbara County call U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s toll-free 24-hour tip line at 1.866.347.2423.

Noozhawk managing editor Michelle Nelson can be reached at mnelson@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.