Sea Lions and Dolphins to protect US Naval Base

Image from US Navy Marine Mammal Force Protection

Image from US Navy Marine Mammal Force Protection

The US Navy has submitted a Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for its proposed Swimmer Interdiction Security System (SISS) for the Washington state Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor. According to the FEIS, the SISS would find, identify and intercept waterborne intruders (swimmers or divers) for engagement by harbor security forces.

The Navy’s preferred alternative, the Marine Mammal Alternative, is to use trained sea lions and dolphins to patrol the base’s aquatic perimeter.  The animals would be armed with beacons and cuffs to locate and neutralize intruders.  Another alternative considered was to use human combat swimmers.

Despite the comical similarities between the Marine Mammal Alternative and Dr. Evil’s battalion of laser-equipped sharks, the Marine Mammal Alternative offers significant advantages to human alternatives.  In this Seattle Times article, Tom Lapuzza, a spokesman for the Marine Mammal Program, said, “because of their astonishing sonar abilities, dolphins are excellent at patrolling for swimmers and divers. When [they] detect a person in the water, a Navy dolphin drops a beacon. This tells a human interception team where to find the suspicious swimmer.” With their sonar abilities, the marine mammal alternative is superior to the human alternative.  Marine mammals 1, humans 0.

The Marine Mammal Alternative has been met with opposition from P.E.T.A. as reported here.  In addition, the cost of developing a Marine Mammal Program has been projected in the millions.

NEPA lesson learned: Alternative analysis takes many forms.

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