Thursday, June 8, 2017

Navy Dolphins in Distress-San Diego

by Russ Rector, Michele Bollo


This You Tube channel playlist shows the Navy Marine Mammal Program to have a sizable population of research-compromised dolphins and looks at two dolphins, each filmed over the course of near three weeks in FEB and MAR 2017.   They are in obvious poor health and distress to the point of death, one unidentified, the other Makai. The first two videos from 01/07/17 and 04/7/17 show a third dolphin,  surface-dwelling with a completely collapsed dorsal fin.
While the Navy has been tight-lipped on any dolphin deaths, and insist none have died since early 2015, they did release a statement that an “Iraqi war hero named Makai” was euthanized on 04/11/2017. What they failed to report is that Makai was subsequently off-loaded post Iraq to the scientific research program, per the 2016 Marine Mammal Inventory Report, and is seen in these clips to enter the medical pen and quickly need more support and assistance to the point of no possibility of rehabilitation.
On the heels of that story comes a more detailed version of the sanitized propaganda the Navy would have the public believe.  The coverage was sparked by footage obtained over the course of nearly 6 months that tells a very different story. 

In response to this story, the Navy has moved select pens, including the medical pen and certain dolphins, those the worst state of compromised health. 
Since the inception of the Navy Marine Mammal Program in 1960, (NMMP) has wild-captured and bred dolphins for the purpose of biological and acoustical research, as well as sea lions.  While the Navy was serious at one point about using dolphins for water retrieval, mine hunting and more, the technological age has brought on robust replacements in Knifefish and other unmanned robotic vehicles.   "The Knifefish drone allows a manned surface ship to remain at a safe distance away from risk of mine explosions while the drone searches for and finds floating and buried mines in high-clutter environments. The drone also gathers environmental data to provide intelligence support."

This has rendered the Navy dolphins to a warehouse in San Diego-Point Loma and their use has become irrelevant for military use and in fact, unreliable, as the Navy admits a number of dolphins have gone AWOL on practice missions.  The terminology on the (Marine Mammal Inventory Report (MMIR 2016) has evolved from "inadvertent release/escape" to simply "release", a more palatable term then the reality.      
The videos shot over the course of six months show excessive use for teaching interns, externs and an invitation to federally-funded research by NGO’s and private companies with the approval of an internal Navy committee called the Internal Animal Care and Use Committee(IACUC).  To date, the Navy has refused to answer who and with what affiliation the members of the IACUC are, although we know the Primary Veterinarian is likely Navy, with other positions filled by their partner in research from the National Marine Mammal Foundation (NMMF), who are paid at least $41 millions dollars, even though the Navy claims the NMMP costs just over $20 million.    Your tax dollars are paying for research that is questionable, non-transferable, invalid by virtue of repeated use of the same dolphins, the small group testing size, the lack of controls, repeatability, how the dolphins were selected for the biological research, outcomes and finally, applicability to wild populations.  the IACUC is supposed to research any study done on the Navy dolphins for other similar research and the Department of Defense Directive includes a process to make sure the dolphins are protected from any repetitive similar testing.  In short, the validity of the testing has to be scrutinized by independent researchers.  
Any part of the Navy's rhetoric that dismisses that great number of dolphins living and dead that have been repetitively used in testing that compromises health, and worse, puts them at risk of death is not speculation anymore.     The controversy over the treatment of the animals and the nature of its mission and training is clear by virtue of the  Navy’s own 2016 Marine Mammal Inventory Report and the fact we have been given a first hand look at that treatment over a period of months by the Navy's decision to temporarily move the sea pens to a location in a public water channel, in front of a public bridge where the Navy has no jurisdiction.  That is how the You Tube videos were obtained from a formally unobservable location at the Navy Sub Base at Point Loma.    Of those classified for scientific research, 109 have died, ONLY three have been compassionately euthanized, although the listed cause of death is most assuredly painful and created much suffering.    hat brings up a key issue, that of compassionate euthanasia.  That would be very much a part of what the Navy calls “care that exceeds all regulatory standards", rather then use dolphins to teach those interested in working with captive dolphins at the expense of great suffering, as documented by the video.      

The 2016 MMIR shows hundreds of dolphins that were designated captured for scientific research, since the inception of the program.   The program was declassified in the 1990’s, and while FOIA requests have provided valuable information, many requests have been declined, in particular the necropsies of dead dolphins (some drowned).  There exists questionable Cause of Death reported on the MMIR and some pending for years.    The possibility dolphins died as a result of organ failure or reactions due to research cannot be ruled out. 
Federally-funded research has a lack of oversight, except by the internal Navy committee.    Additionally, the Navy boasts “thousands of research papers” on these animals over time, all of them vetted by the internal committee,  as required by both the Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care International (AAALAC) a voluntary organization with no legislative power and  Animal Welfare Guidelines.  While there are other organizations that participate in research with the dolphins, a partial and most recent list of research conducted only by NMMF is located at this website:
The Navy states that they are regulated by:
APHIS/Animal Welfare Act

The Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums - http://www.//
Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA)

Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care International (AAALAC). AAALAC is a nonprofit NON-REGULATORY organization, whereby membership is VOLUNTARY. Full accreditation for 2015 here:
The DOD Directive, an internal document the Navy says goes beyond the requirements of all other regulatory requirements.
Coming soon:   
Part Two - How the Navy Subverts Marine Mammal Protections

Navy Dolphins in Distress-San Diego

by Russ Rector, Michele Bollo PART ONE This You Tube channel playlist shows the Navy Marine Mammal Program to ha...