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© 2005 MR THOMAS LINDSTRÍM, EMail: 73.thomas@gmail.com
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Your Ad Here The Flipper Gap

Evidence about Soviet marine mammal defense programmes is even harder to come by, the best source to date being a CIA report leaked to Jack Anderson of the Washington Post in May 1981.
This claimed that the Soviet programme closely resembles that of the US Navy, was begun in 1965 (the year of the Sealab experiments with Tuffy), and is carried out from five Black Sea facilities which include a small bio-acoustic laboratory and a dolphinarium.

The report states that 'the quality of Soviet research has improved steadily and in many areas is comparable' to that of the US Navy. As well as studying dolphins in order to try and improve missile and hull design, the Soviets are also 'training dolphins to perform various military and intelligence tasks... which could include attaching intelligence collection packages and other devices to enemy submarines [a task the US Navy has never confirmed it is doing] and helping divers recover equipment from the ocean floor.'

The document also cites a successful Soviet experiment to investigate the detection of a sound-emitting object against adverse background noise, which 'could enable the Soviets to evaluate the potential benefits of developing acoustical jamming countermeasures to US navy dolphin programs.'

The CIAs discussion of a 'flipper gap' and the potential for conflict in this area is a theme developed by Lieutenant Commander Douglas R. Burnett of the US Naval Reserve. In a September 1981 article he wrote:

'In a hostile confrontation, both sides will have to consider dolphins as potential enemy biosensors or weapons. In some situations, there may be no choice except to destroy dolphins or any marine mammal presenting a similar threat. Such a precedent could result in an unpredictable intrusion into the ocean environment. For example, it may be a sound tactical decision to protect shipping in a harbour by poisoning the surrounding waters to remove the threat of dolphin attacks which would, coincidentally, remove a sizable portion of the area's ecology.'

He concludes that '... the lead one country has in marine mammal technology will generate a countermeasure which will, in turn, create its own counter- countermeasure and so on in a ceaseless chain. A bilateral agreement between the United States and the Soviet Union might cap this chain before it reaches the level of a disastrous threat to the ocean environment and marine mammals. We have a unique opportunity to limit this threat without any loss to out national security. As the dolphin has traditionally been a friend to man, a bilateral agreement between the United States and the Soviet Union, regulating the naval use of marine mammals, would keep this tradition alive.'

Until such an agreement is reached, dolphins will continue to be exploited in the struggle for military supremacy.