Guard dolphins generate few comments in Silverdale

UPDATE: Some opponents showed up at A Seattle hearing the next night, including activists bearing signs that said, “We will knit for dolphins.” I’ve added some information from the Los Angeles Times at the end of this entry.
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In a public hearing last night, nobody stood up to protest the U.S. Navy’s use of guard dolphins and sea lions in Hood Canal.

My colleague Ed Friedrich, who wrote a story for today’s Kitsap Sun, pointed out that, unlike a “scoping” meeting two years ago, nobody came to the meeting knitting sweaters, hats or mittens for the dolphins.

According to the Navy, studies have shown that the dolphins can tolerate the cold water fairly well. To be sure, they will be asked to patrol for only a couple of hours at a time, after which they will return to a warm-water enclosure.

About 50 people showed up, and only two testified. I wouldn’t be surprised if some people chose to attend the Puget Sound-Georgia Basin Ecosystem Conference in Seattle instead of the hearing. But everyone will have another chance to testify tonight.

Judy Dicksion, who has worked as a volunteer observer of marine mammals in Hood Canal, said the Navy went out of its way to address her concerns.

Pete Schroeder, a veterinarian who specializes in marine mammals, said the Navy’s marine mammal research program is the best in the world. “These animals will be safe, and in my experience they will be happy,” he said about the guard dolphins and sea lions.

I know that a number of people have serious concerns about this program — including possible questions of morality, as demonstrated by comments on this blog.

The only other hearing on the environmental assessment will be tonight from 5 to 9 p.m. at Tyee High School, 4424 S. 188th Place in SeaTac. An open house is from 5 to 6:30 p.m. followed by a presentation and testimony after that.

It would be great to get a report from anyone who attends that hearing, and feel free to post your opinions here.

You can review the Navy’s program at the Web site called Swimmer Interdiction Security Program.

UPDATED INFORMATION FROM THE LOS ANGELES TIMES ABOUT THE HEARING IN SEATTLE THE FOLLOWING NIGHT:

Opposition to the Navy’s plans for the dolphins has coalesced into the group Knitting for Dolphins, which has launched a national campaign of volunteers knitting colorful dolphin-size sweaters.

Activists at Thursday night’s hearing near Seattle carried large placards saying “Will Knit for Dolphins.”

“It’s just a ridiculous idea. I mean, you know, they’re not cold-water dolphins. And I think a lot of people are opposed to using animals for war,” said Leigh Calvez of Bainbridge Island, Wash., who has been among the most vocal opponents.

(Toni) Frohoff (of the Human Society of the U.S.) told Navy officials during one of two public hearings on the issue in the Seattle area this week that a marine mammal rescue group in Texas reported in 2007 that 25 dead dolphins had washed ashore along the Galveston County coastline.

“I’ve been working with dolphins for over 20 years, both in captivity and in the wild. And most trainers who don’t have an affiliation will readily admit that dolphins do not have as accurate a response rate to directions and signals as human divers. So I think it isn’t just dangerous to dolphins, it’s dangerous to people,” Frohoff said.

In the same story, Navy proponents had their say:

Navy officials say the dolphins have been trained successfully in very cold water, including wintertime stints in Alaska, Norway, Connecticut, Denmark and Germany.

“We had the animals out for many hours at a time, and they came back, and they were fine,” said Tom LaPuzza, public affairs officer for the Navy’s Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center in San Diego.

One thought on “Guard dolphins generate few comments in Silverdale

  1. UPDATE: Some opponents showed up at a Seattle hearing the next night, including activists bearing signs that said, “We will knit for dolphins.” I’ve added some information from the Los Angeles Times at the end of this entry.

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