In 1960, the U.S. Navy began using marine mammals such as dolphins and sea lions to protect our harbors, clear underwater mines, and recover lost equipment. Over the years, this program has been responsible for a lot of positive work and should continue into the future.
The dolphins and sea lions in the program provide an important service to the men and women in the Navy. Dolphins’ natural sonar abilities have been used to locate mines along the bottom of the sea floor.
Dolphins and sea lions have excellent underwater vision and hearing that allow them to detect and track undersea targets, even in dark or murky waters. They can also dive hundreds of feet below the surface, without risk of sickness like human divers. Someday it may be possible to complete these missions with underwater drones, but for now technology is no match for the animals.
During times of war, these animals have done a great service to our country and the men and women in the military. During the Vietnam War, five dolphins protected an army ammunition post.
They stopped enemy swimmers from coming ashore. During the 1996 Republican Convention held in San Diego, dolphins patrolled the harbor and protected the people attending the convention. In 2003 dolphins cleared underwater mines ahead of U.S. ships during the Iraq War. Because of their intelligence and trainability, dolphins and sea lions are good choices for many of these difficult underwater missions. Without them, many more soldiers could be injured.
Despite the great work these mammals have done, many people argue against the program. They claim the dolphins are put at risk and don’t live good lives. But the Navy argues that most of the animals in their program live longer than the mammals in the wild. In addition, the animals are never mistreated and are only given positive reinforcement. The Navy also maintains strict rules about when a dolphin can be used (such as water temperature) so that the animals are not put in environments that are not normal. Opponents also argue that robots could do the same work, but as of now we do not have the technology that matches the natural abilities of the dolphins and robots would cost a lot of money.
While there are some arguments against using marine mammals in the Navy, the benefits and good work of these animals is undeniable. Without these animals, soldiers’ lives would be at risk. The Navy Marine Mammal Program is an important program to our military and country. Until robots are as smart as dolphins, the Navy should keep using the animals.