Navy moves ahead with plan to use guard dolphins

Navy officials have approved a plan to deploy specially trained Atlantic bottlenose dolphins and California sea lions to protect the Navy’s submarine base at Bangor.

<em>Dolphins will be used to guard the Navy's submarine base at Bangor, similar to operations at King's Bay, Ga., and other places.</em><br><small>U.S. Navy photo by Veronica Birmingham</small>
Dolphins will be used to guard the Navy's submarine base at Bangor, similar to operations at King's Bay, Ga., and other places.
U.S. Navy photo by Veronica Birmingham

Roger Natsuhara, acting assistant secretary of the Navy for installation and environment, signed the record of decision (PDF 1.7 mb) on Wednesday. Check the document for official details about the program.

Reporter Ed Friedrick wrote a story about the decision for Thursday’s Kitsap Sun. His article includes the following description of how the Navy plans to use the marine mammals.

The dolphins, accompanied by handlers in small power boats, will work at night. If they find an intruder, they’ll swim back to the boat and alert the handler, who will place a strobe light on a dolphin’s nose. It will race back and bump the intruder’s back, knocking the light off. The light will float to the surface, marking the spot. The dolphin will swim back to the boat, join the handler, and they’ll clear out as security guards speed to the strobe to subdue the intruder.

Sea lions can carry in their mouths special cuffs attached to long ropes. If they find a suspicious swimmer, they clamp the cuff around the person’s leg. The intruder can then be reeled in.

The dolphins’ sonar is better than any that man has made and they’re best for moving quickly in open water. Sea lions can see and hear better underwater and are better for shallower work around piers

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