"There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest." — Elie Wiesel

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Dolphins In Bondage, or Let My Cetaceans Go

Picture this. It’s a sunny, summer day on Hood Canal in Washington State. You decide to take a long swim and jump in (in your wet suit of course). You are swimming along, minding your own business when you are accosted by a dolphin that finally drops a homing beacon and swims away.
Before long a California sea lion swims out of the watery gloom and starts poking your leg. You wrestle the beast, but it finally gets the upper fin and attaches a cuff to your leg and swims off. You stop for a moment and consider your situation. And then it dawns on you; Atlantic bottlenose dolphins don’t live in Puget Sound. Next thing you know, you feel a jerk, and are being pulled through the water like a fish on a line.

Just before you run out of air you are pulled onto the deck of a boat and find yourself staring at a bunch of very serious looking people with guns pointed at you. You’ve just been apprehended by the swimmer interdiction security system, a human/marine mammal team working to protect the United States' most valuable asset in its nuclear arsenal, the Trident nuclear submarine fleet based at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor.

So what’s the big deal with using dolphins and sea lions to help catch the hordes of terrorists swimming around looking for submarines to blow up? For starters, the Navy already has an effective system in place consisting of active sonar arrays that can discriminate between (and locate) swimmers and scuba divers. Combat swimmers on harbor patrol boats can jump in and nab any would-be terrorists before you can say Davey Jones’ Locker.

Perhaps those combat swimmers are getting lazy, or the Navy has a marine mammal fetish. At any rate, they have been using marine mammals for many years to do their dirty work, and now they want to use them in Puget Sound (and they have been talking about this for well over two years). There is one minor problem however – dolphins don’t like water this cold. Don’t get me wrong. They love it down in sunny San Diego and many other parts of the world where they get to work. But the waters of Puget Sound are around 12 degrees (Fahrenheit) colder than their home waters.

Of course, the Navy says that they will look after the dolphin’s welfare, keeping them in “heated enclosures” and only send them out on patrol “for periods of about two hours." Oh sure! I’m envisioning a scene out a Charles Dickens story, but with Dolphins instead of children. I can just see an OSHA inspector coming out and checking on Flipper’s working conditions and requiring the Navy to supply him with something warm to wear. The Navy will have to call the knitters at Knitting for Dolphins to help keep our friends warm on their two hour tours.

Of course, the real issue is not whether we need marine mammals to protect our nuclear submarines from scuba diving, explosive vest wearing terrorists. The real issue is whether we need these mammoth dragons of the deep, (each one) bristling with enough nuclear warheads to destroy an entire continent and blanket the earth with deadly radiation for generations, "protecting" the United States. Free the dolphins (and the sea lions) and deep six Trident!

Learn more about Trident at Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action, an organization dedicated to the abolition of Trident.



P.S. - If you live in the Seattle area, and would like to comment on the Navy's proposed proposed swimmer interdiction security system, there are two public hearings coming up:
Wednesday, 2/11, 5-9 p.m., Silverdale Community Center, Evergreen Room, 9729 Silverdale Way NW, Silverdale, WA 98383-9445.
Thursday, 2/12, 5-9 p.m., Tyee High School, Cafeteria, 4424 S. 188th Pl, SeaTac, WA 98188-5028.

Thanks to the Knitting for Dolphins Website for the photos used in this post.

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