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Dolphins To Rescue?
Navy May Deploy Anti-Terrorism Dolphins
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Feb 12, 9:27 PM (ET)
By THOMAS WATKINS
SAN DIEGO (AP) - Dozens of dolphins and sea lions trained to detect and apprehend waterborne attackers could be sent to patrol a military base in Washington state, the Navy said Monday. In a notice published in this week's Federal Register, the Navy said it needs to bolster security at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor, on the Puget Sound close to Seattle.
The base is home to submarines, ships and laboratories and is potentially vulnerable to attack by terrorist swimmers and scuba divers, the notice states.
Several options are under consideration, but the preferred plan would be to send as many as 30 California sea lions and Atlantic Bottlenose dolphins from the Navy's Marine Mammal Program, based in San Diego.
LaPuzza said that because of their astonishing sonar abilities, dolphins are excellent at patrolling for swimmers and divers. When a Navy dolphin detects a person in the water, it drops a beacon. This tells a human interception team where to find the suspicious swimmer.
Dolphins also are trained to detect underwater mines; they were sent to do this in the Iraqi harbor of Umm Qasr in 2003.
The Navy wanted to deploy marine animals to the Northwest in 1989, LaPuzza said, but a federal judge sided with animal-rights activists concerned about the effects of cooler water, as well as how the creatures would affect the environment. Water in the Puget Sound is about 10 degrees cooler than in San Diego Harbor, which has an average temperature of about 58 degrees, LaPuzza said.