Dolphins and sea lions may defend Navy base
Dozens of dolphins and sea lions trained to detect and apprehend waterborne attackers may be sent to patrol a U.S. Naval base in Washington State, the Associated Press reports.
In an article in The New York Times, Navy officials say they are investigating an option to send up to 30 California sea lions and Atlantic bottlenose dolphins to patrol the Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor, located on Puget Sound, near Seattle.
The base is home to submarines, ships and laboratories and is vulnerable to attack by swimmers and scuba divers, according to Navy officials.
The dolphins and sea lions are part of the Navy’s Marine Mammal Program (NMMP), based in San Diego.
According to Tom LaPuzza, an NMMP spokesman, the animals have the capabilities for the mission, which aims to bolster security at the base.
Because of their extreme sonar abilities, dolphins are useful in patrolling for swimmers and divers, LaPuzza said. When a Navy dolphin detects a person in the water, it drops a beacon, which tells a human interception team where to find a suspicious swimmer. Dolphins are also trained to detect underwater mines.
During patrol, sea lions will carry special cuffs in their mouths that are attached to long ropes. Upon finding a rogue swimmer, the sea lion clamps the cuff around the person’s leg, thus allowing the person to be reeled in for questioning.
The Navy is currently seeking public comment for an environmental impact statement on its proposal.
Stephanie Boyles, a marine biologist and spokeswoman for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), said that the mammals do not provide a reliable defense system.
“We believe the United States’ citizens deserve the very best defense possible, and this just isn’t it,” Boyles stated in the article.
Previously, NMMP dolphins and sea lions were used to patrol the San Diego Bay during the 1996 Republican National Convention.