SAN DIEGO – Subversive snorkelers be warned: Koa and her buddies from Naval Special Clearance Team One are looking for you. The Atlantic bottlenose dolphin is one of about 100 marine mammals housed at Naval Base Point Loma. She’ll do anything for a fresh fish – including alerting her human handlers to potential terrorists. Officials at the base, located on a scenic peninsula jutting into San Diego Harbor, briefly opened their doors to the media Thursday for the first time since the start of the war in Iraq. The display came a few weeks after the Navy announced plans to ship up to 30 dolphins and sea lions to patrol the waters of Washington state’s Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor, which is home to nuclear submarines, ships and laboratories. Even in today’s high-tech world of underwater robotics and unmanned vehicles, the Navy says animals like Koa are its best line of defense against attacks from the sea. “Biologically, they are better than anything we have ever made,” said Mike Rothe, head of science for the Navy’s marine mammal program. About 75 dolphins and 25 sea lions are in the program. Both species can find mines and swimmers in murky waters. Working in unison, the dolphins are trained to drop a flashing light by the target, while sea lions can attach a tether to it. The dolphins live in a series of interconnected pens by several jetties in the harbor. Most enclosures are about 30 feet wide by about 30 feet long, with net floors about 10 feet down. By opening gates between the pens, handlers let the dolphins interact for much of the day, Rothe said. About 200 technicians, trainers and other staff care for the animals. Petty Officer 2nd Class Christopher Dallaglio said all the dolphins had different personalities and seemed to enjoy their work. He helps look after Ten, a 24-year-old Atlantic bottlenose. “When she was born, she was perfect, and she’s perfect still,” he said. “She’s a real sweetheart.” The Navy’s sea mammal program started in the late 1950s and grew to comprise 140 animals during the Cold War. Dolphins helped protect a pier during the Vietnam War. A veteran from that conflict, a dolphin nearing 50 years of age, still lives in San Diego at the naval base. The last time the marine mammals were deployed overseas was in the Iraqi harbor of Umm Qasr in 2003, where they located underwater mines and cleared a path for Marines to land. They also were used in San Diego in 1996 when they patrolled the bay during the Republican national convention. Rogue swimmers planting bombs pose a real threat, said Cmdr. Jon Wood, who deployed to Iraq with the mammals. He said there were several cases of insurgent forces laying charges on floating objects in Vietnam. The Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior was sunk in 1985 after saboteurs planted limpet mines on its hull. By the late 1990s, Navy officials began phasing out the program, expecting technology to take over. But that still has not happened and dolphins and sea lions will be used until at least 2012. In response to questions about whether the animals have been trained to attack, officials said no. “We have never trained any Navy marine mammals to do any harming, attacking or stabbing,” Navy spokesman Tom LaPuzza said. “We have never done anything like that, and we never will. Animal rights activists are resisting Navy plans to ship the dolphins and sea lions to Washington. They worry that waters in the region, about 10 degrees cooler than in San Diego Harbor, could put stress on the animals. They also are concerned diseases could be transmitted to the area’s native orca population. “There are no bottlenose dolphins in these waters for a reason, and I would say it’s because it’s too darn cold,” said Seattle-area marine biologist Toni Frohoff. Protesters showed up at public meetings held by the Navy in the Seattle area to discuss the Navy’s plan. Several of them knitted woolly hats and sailor uniforms for the animals as a way of drawing attention to the issue – costumes that could never actually be worn. “People contributed some handsome hats, and there’s talk of mittens,” said Knitting for Dolphins member Janet Bailey. Dr. Stephanie Wong, a military veterinarian, said the dolphins are closely monitored for any signs of disease. The Navy’s plan to ship marine mammals to Washington state is still in its early stages. Officials aim to complete an environmental impact report by the fall. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!
GAA fans in Tyrone are furious today after a DUP MLA congratulated Donegal on beating them in the Ulster Championship – and then backed Donegal to beat ‘Londonderry’ in the final in three weeks’ time.DUP MLA Ian McCrea has sparked anger putting a message on Twitter to express his hopes that Mid Ulster teams lose out in the Ulster Senior Football Championship – to keep any celebrations out of the area.“Great to see Tyrone beat in the Ulster semis today hope Donegal beat Londonderry in the final to keep the celebrations out of Mid Ulster,” Mr McCrea tweeted. When asked what he meant he said Donegal’s victory would save “thousands of pounds of public money has been wasted on receptions for Tyrone”.GAA fans responded on Twitter, accusing the DUP man of sectarianism.However on response said: “Good to see you’re keeping up to date with the Ulster (9 counties) championship. What do you think of Donegal’s defence?”Sinn Fein’s Francie Molloy – aware of several DUP members with Donegal links including Willie Hay – said: “Perhaps Ian’s hope that Donegal are victorious in the Ulster final is a vote of solidarity with his many party colleagues in Derry, and elsewhere, with Donegal birth rights and who will no doubt be quietly hoping Ian gets his wish. “Whatever sparked his interest and regardless of which team Ian will be pulling for in the Ulster final, it is to be welcomed and you never know – he might even some day attend the final in person and actually enjoy himself.”Mr Molloy added: “On a more serious note, it’s about time that Ian McCrea – and those who think like him – wakes up to the reality that Gaelic games attract more participants and supporters than any other sport in Ireland and many professional sporting organisations only dream of attracting the numbers that pass through the turnstiles at GAA facilities.“Mr McCrea’s churlish comments about the cost of civic receptions for victorious teams should be dismissed for the begrudging attitude it displays – i.e. anything that doesn’t fit in with my culture should not be celebrated.”SDLP deputy leader Patsy McGlone has wished the Derry side well and called for Mr McCrea to withdraw his “ridiculous” remarks.“Enda Muldoon and Conleith Gilligan from my home club, Ballinderry, are fine role models for young people across Ireland and their role in bringing Derry to the Ulster Final has evoked a huge sense of civic pride here,” he said. “I wish Derry all the best in the final at Clones and am sure that this comment will only spur them on to bring Sam back home in September.” FIREBRAND DUP MAN CONGRATULATES DONEGAL – THEN BACKS THEM TO BEAT ‘LONDONDERRY’ was last modified: June 27th, 2011 by gregShare this:Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pocket (Opens in new window)Click to share on Telegram (Opens in new window)Click to share on WhatsApp (Opens in new window)Click to share on Skype (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Tags:DerryDonega;donegalIan McCreasectarianismTyrone
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