Navy’s guard dolphins are under review at Bangor

The Navy is back to talking about using dolphins and sea lions for patrolling Hood Canal for enemy swimmers near the Navy’s submarine base at Bangor.

Navy officials say there’s really not much difference between using guard dogs to patrol a facility on land and using guard dolphins to patrol a facility on the water.

A story in today’s Kitsap Sun by Ed Friedrich indicates that the Navy is committed to carrying out some kind of “swimmer interdiction security program.” Four alternatives are up for public discussion: using California sea lions and Atlantic bottlenose dolphins; just sea lions; combat swimmers; remotely operated vehicles; and no change.

The preferred option is both dolphins and sea lions.

In one possible program, dolphins would be trained to drop a lighted buoy near an enemy swimmer. In another program, sea lions would learn to clamp a cuff on a swimmer’s leg so that the enemy could be reeled in like a big fish.

Ten years ago, the Progressive Animal Welfare Society and other environmental groups sued the Navy over its plans to deploy dolphins at Bangor. The Navy eventually agreed to withdraw the proposal until a full environmental review could be completed.

Two years ago, the Navy started through the environmental analysis, and PAWS prepared for another public campaign and possible legal action. The group’s primary objections centered on the cold water of Hood Canal, which is not the dolphins’ normal habitat, and the fact that the captive animals would never be free to swim in open waters except when on duty and under the control of humans.

For information, check Navy Web sites about the marine mammal program and analysis of the Bangor Swimmer Interdiction Security System.

2 thoughts on “Navy’s guard dolphins are under review at Bangor

  1. The Navy’s proposed recruitment of marine mammals to protect their most cherished assets in Hood Canal is the ultimate recognition of the superiority of biological over mechanical acoustic prowess. Before the Navy is allowed to indenture the service of these highly capable animals, they must be required to demonstrate what they are doing to advance the study and protection of our endangered wild whales.

  2. If, as Thomas White establishes in his new book “In Defense of Dolphins: The New Moral Frontier,” dolphins are “non-human persons” then it is not fantasy to say that what is done to a dolphin should be seen as if it is done to a human. Indentured servitude, also known as slavery, is generally frowned upon for humans, and it should also be unethical to enslave dolphins. Beyond the morality of using dolphins as guards, the point is that they are acutely aware of their surroundings and social situation and unlike dogs, are not instinctively dependent or bred to be subservient. Thus they are aware of being treated as slaves.

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