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Marine mammal patrol

FEB. 14 — In an attempt to bolster security at a Navy base in Washington state, dozens of dolphins and sea lions have been trained to patrol the waters to help detect and apprehend waterborne terrorists.

Authorities at the Kitsap-Bangor Naval Base, on Puget Sound near Seattle, have apparently considered a number of security options, but prefer to give the highly sensitive security job to 30 California sea lions and bottlenose dolphins, according to an Associated Press news report. The base is home to submarines, ships and laboratories, and is potentially vulnerable to an attack by scuba divers or swimmers, the Navy says in a notice published this week in the Federal Register.

“These animals have the capabilities for what needs to be done for this particular mission,” a spokesperson for the Marine Mammal Program says in the news report.

Dolphins can be used to patrol for swimmers and divers because of their exceptional use of sonar, the report says. When a Navy dolphin spots a suspicious person in the water it drops a beacon alerting a human interception team ashore.

Dolphins have also been trained to detect underwater mines, says the report. Sea lions have been trained to use their mouths to carry special cuffs which are attached to long ropes. When they see a suspicious swimmer they can clamp the cuff around the person’s leg so the individual can be reeled in for questioning.

The Navy is seeking public comment so it can put together an environmental impact statement associated with the proposal, the news report says.

Jason Fell