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US Navy uses dolphins, sea lions to guard against underwater threats

The animals are used to detect, locate, mark and recover objects in coastal areas and at depth in the open sea, according to the Navy’s website.
Credit: AP
A trainer, left, touches the nose of U.S. Navy dolphin "Shasta" during a demonstration on Thursday, April 12, 2007, at the U.S. Navy Marine Mammal Program facility at Naval Base Point Loma in San Diego.

Norwegian fisherman and scientists say a beluga whale found with a tight harness prompted speculation the animal might have escaped from a Russian military facility.

CBS News reports Russia has admitted to training sea mammals for special operations in the Arctic.

The U.S. Navy has used a similar tactic for years.

The difference is the U.S. Navy’s Marine Mammal Program trains bottlenose dolphins and California sea lions instead of whales. The animals are used to detect, locate, mark and recover objects in coastal areas and at depth in the open sea, according to the Navy’s website.

The U.S. Navy compares its use of dolphins and sea lions to security patrol dogs.

Since 1959, the Navy has trained dolphins and sea lions to help guard against explosives and other threats underwater. Specifically, the animals recover objects in harbors, coastal areas and at depth in open sea. They can also help in finding unauthorized swimmers and drivers that could attempt to harm the Navy.

Dolphins are also trained to search for and mark the location of undersea mines.

Point Loma, a neighborhood in San Diego, has served as the home of the Marine Mammal Program since the 1960s.

For decades, media members and animal activists have speculated the dolphins are used as special weapons. The 1973 movie The Day of the Dolphin reinforced some of those ideas. The Navy’s website states officials have shared the story of marine mammals and their missions to the media since declassification of the program in the 1990s.

Note: The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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