A dolphin in the U.S. Navy Marine Mammal Program located a Howell torpedo last week. The dolphin was apparently undergoing routine training when he detected it. The torpedo was one of only 50 ever manufactured. I think it is cool that the dolphins being trained in the Navy can uncover some interesting historical artifacts. I know there is controversy surrounding the Navy’s use of dolphins for military endeavors. The military takes advantage of the dolphins’ naturally superb sonar and sensory abilities. This is a link to the Navy’s Marine Mammal Program FAQ section. Yes, it may be biased, but it does a great job explaining many things. The main job of the dolphins and other animals is to locate and mark humans or mines in the water. The website states the Navy never used dolphins to attack ships or harm humans. I believe these are true. From a logical/military standpoint, I wouldn’t want to strap explosives to a dolphin who, despite training, could go pretty much anywhere they wanted. Furthermore, I don’t think locating underwater mines would be much of a threat to dolphins because the mines are designed to go off for large ships. If mines were designed to explode on passing marine wildlife, not many ships would get damaged, thereby rendering mines practically pointless.
The FAQs also pointed out the very true fact that dolphins/marine animals are in danger more from their natural predators or other humans, then they are from these Navy missions. There are more stories about people trying to feed dolphins beer or ride manatees than there are about Navy mishaps. The dolphins in the Navy are cared for and trained by professionals, not drunk people on boats. Now, that being said, there are LOTS of news articles about Navy exercises killing marine wildlife or causing them to strand because of sonar. Consequently, the Navy isn’t the ideal “protector of marine wildlife,” but I do think they take care of the ones working for them.