Dolphins die during Navy training exercise off CA coast

Three dolphins died earlier this month during a Navy training exercise using underwater explosives off the coast of San Diego, California. Marine mammal fatalities that can be directly attributed to military tests in that area are relatively rare. They were so-called "common dolphins," an unglamorous name for one of the most beautiful creatures I have ever had the great fortune to be close to, out in the water on an observation boat.


  1. “The unit conducting the underwater training exercises on March 4 had scanned the area and spotted no marine mammals before starting a countdown to detonate the explosives about 10:45 a.m., said Cmdr. Greg Hicks, spokesman for the U.S. Navy’s Third Fleet.”

    I am not so skeptical as to disbelieve this story. If marine mammal fatalities from military tests are rare, this is probably just one of those times that necessary precautions fail. It’s unfortunate that we can’t just warn dolphins to stay out of the area, but that could be an area of research worth following.

  2. Why do we need to keep exploding things underwater? For a freakin’ training exercise? The sound alone travels for thousands of miles and has been known to injure the hearing of whales and other marine life far from detonation sites. Sad.

    1. Because we are humans, the world is our sandbox and nothing else matters. Related in a way I just saw a commercial selling “butterfly growing kits”, you have to wonder what releasing monarch butterflies in areas where there are low/no population will do to the ecosystem.

      1. As monarchs have been suffering thanks to destruction of milkweed habitats, I wouldn’t worry too much about it.

  3. The Navy has an active marine mammal research group that is a part of the Navy’s Marine Mammal Program. While the group is better known for their use of trained animals for mine hunting and anti-diver activities, they do do a considerable amount of scientific research.

    A part of this research is in conservation, so it is not as though the Navy is blind to the problems that affect sea-life, both for “one of the most beautiful creatures” and the less-beautiful ones too.

    The Navy dolphins were

  4. They were so called “common dolphins”.

    Just as you and I are so called “common humans” to the military industrial complex…

  5. Three? Not three hundred? Three thousand?
    Just three?
    So what.
    Human activity has killed hundreds of people in the time span these dolphins died in.
    At any rate, I don’t see the animal population putting itself out to save humans.
    “Military kill things.”
    This isn’t even news.

    lol – dolphin wars.

      1. Dolphins Rescuing Humans

        Several years ago, in the Gulf of Akaba, a British tourist was rescued by three dolphins from sharks. Near the Sinai Peninsula, a ship captain had stopped his boat so several passengers could watch dolphins playing. Three of the passengers decided to swim with them, and one stayed a little longer than the others. To his horror, he was bitten by a shark – and more were coming. Suddenly, three dolphins placed themselves between the tourist and the sharks, smacking the water with tails and flippers, and drove the sharks off so the man could be rescued.

        In 2004, a group of swimmers were confronted by a ten-foot great white shark off the northern coast of new Zealand. A pod of dolphins “herded” them together, circling them until the great white fled. There are several other examples from the area of Australia of similar incidences.

        In another case in the Red Sea, twelve divers who were lost for thirteen and a half hours were surrounded by dolphins for the entire time, repelling the many sharks that live in the area. When a rescue boat showed up, it appeared that the dolphin pod were showing them where the divers were; they leaped up in the air in front of the rescuers, jumping toward the lost people as if to lead the boat onward – as, according to old stories, they often did with endangered ships in treacherous water.

  6. If you look at how the airlines determine what safety risks they can live with, based on costs associated with deaths of humans, you can quickly see how collateral damage isn’t really that much of a concern, outside of finances. To wit, the risk of fatalities that US troupes, and civilians of foreign countries, are subject to, has more to do with bottom line as well. How do a couple of dead dolphins even register on the radar, or sonar, as it may be?

    1. Not that I doubt you, but do you have sources for the airline claim? I.e. that they put dollar amounts on human life, estimate how many people will die if they do or don’t do something and calculate which option would be more expensive? Just out of interest really.

      1. It’s not something that I found online. I recall it from a news magazine piece on TV. I will do a cursory search, but I’m tired today, so I might be useless. It had to do with expenditures on repairs, or gas, etc, and had ( insurance?) calculations as to what it might cost the airline per person if they died vs changing protocols and procedures. I’m not even really sure how to google it, but I’ll give it a whirl.

      2. I’m sure there’s a name for it that alludes me, but it’s the same reason companies pollute like crazy. It was a big deal a while ago here, maybe it still is, that it was cheaper for a power plant to get fined for polluting than to add the pollution scrubbers the law required on their smokestacks. So they just paid the fines.

      3. Not exactly the same thing, but:

        Cost-benefit Analysis of Fixing Exploding Fuel Tanks On the Ford Pinto

        Cost-Benefit Analysis

        One of the tools that Ford used to argue for the delay was a “cost-benefit analysis” of altering the fuel tanks. According to Ford’s estimates, the unsafe tanks would cause 180 burn deaths, 180 serious burn injuries, and 2,100 burned vehicles each year. It calculated that it would have to pay $200,000 per death, $67,000 per injury, and $700 per vehicle, for a total of $49.5 million. However, the cost of saving lives and injuries ran even higher: alterations would cost $11 per car or truck, which added up to $137 million per year.

  7. In Western Australia where I live you can bet if there are dolphin and whale strandings that some US ship or sub is going to be in port. Its not explosives though, the navy sonar screws with the mammals own systems and they strand.

    Its common knowledge, but it seems impossible to keep the US out.

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