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Author(s) of the publication: Yaroslav RENKAS

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Protecting the shelf of the World Ocean from terrorists and saboteurs with the help of animals has long been regarded as a problem of considerable importance. What is being done about it in this country we learn in an article published in the Vestnik Rossiyskoi akademii nauk (Bulletin of the Russian Academy of Sciences) magazine. Its authors are the Director of the Murmansk Institute of Marine Biology (MMBI) of the RAS Kola Scientific Center, Gennady Matishov, head of the staff, Vice-Admiral Sergei Simonenko and commander of the 12th squadron of submarines, Vice-Admiral Nikolai Maximov (Northern Fleet).

The authors of this article point out that coastal waters, marine economic zones and the shelf of the World Ocean are generally used in the interests of the merchant fleet, fishing and other economic activities. Located in these areas are ecologically dangerous structures-seaports and harbors, bases of the atomic fleet, oil processing complexes and storages and transport communications. In the present geopolitical situation there is always a threat of terrorist acts in peacetime, and during armed conflicts-of reconnaissance and sabotage operations of the adversary.

Needless to say that all our objects of strategic importance are equipped with special security systems, hydroacoustic and radio detectors which detect all sorts of targets, including those of small size. But all sorts of technical noises reduce the potential of these technical gear. This being so, specialists have turned to what used to be a non-traditional method of protection of coastal objects. They now use sea animals-whales, dolphins, seals and sea lions which all have highly sensitive systems of sensory hydrolocation which allow to identify deep-sea biological and technical objects with good resolution in the conditions of natural and man-made noises and complicated bottom topography. Electromagnetic and vibration fields generated by whales and Pinnipedia can hardly be detected and thanks to that these animals can carry microprocessors for getting data controlled by space satellites.

Studies of sea mammals began approximately in the mid-20th century. The first things that drew scientists' attention were their hydrodynamic properties, their radar capabilities, mechanism of decompression, modes of adaptation and behavior. As a result a theoretical and practical basis was obtained for using whales and Pinnipedia in the struggle with possible terrorists and saboteurs.

The Americans were the first to start using animals for military purposes such as the protection of their warships of the 7th Fleet during the war in Vietnam. Enemy divers were successfully kept away by dolphins. By the early 1980s big centers of animal training were in operation in the Hawaiis and San Diego (California). Tens of dolphins and sea lions from a special unit of the US Navy were actively involved in the military operations in the Persian Gulf in 1991 - 2004. NATO maneuvers "Baltic Challenge 98" and "Blue Game" (2001) in Klaipeda proved that sea mammals can help find mines and shells in the Baltic and off the Norwegian shores. An important stage of their training was to make the animals mark underwater objects by special signal beacons.

As for Russia, it gained the necessary experience at the Black Sea, Pacific and Northern fleets. The best results were achieved at Sebastopol Naval Oceanarium located at the Kazachya Bay (now the territory of Ukraine). There dolphins were trained to locate mines and shells sunk during the war years at depths of down to 190 m. The animals were dropped down from helicopters above all for the protection of the area around the Sebastopol Naval Base.

Since 1980 similar operations were under way in the Far East at the Naval Scientific Research Center (Vityaz Bay). This work was abandoned after the disintegration of the Soviet Union.

In the Northern Fleet the training of whales and Pinnipedia was started in 1984 at the MMBI. Achievements of the domestic and foreign specialists in this field had to be used with corrections for low temperatures of

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the sea water (down to -1.7°) and of the air (down to -30°), sea ice and Polar night.

The experiments were conducted in three stages. The first (1984 - 1992) was aimed at finding a life support model for about 10 species of sea mammals from different geographical and climate zones, selecting training methods for Pinnipedia in a sea stationary establishment, in the cage complexes of the Dalnezelenetskaya Guba water area and fresh-water lakes. In some years they contained over 15 trained animals-sea lions and seals, Black Sea bottlenose dolphins, white whales, grey and Greenland seals, annulate ringed seal, hooded seal, sea hares, etc. Depending on specialization they were trained to detect metal objects in shallow places, tear off equipment from divers and transport it ashore. The animals were trained to swim in the wake of a fast patrol boat of their trainer. As was established later Arctic varieties of seals obeyed commands much faster than their Far Eastern "brethren". And the aborigine varieties of Pinnipedia were found to be more promising than cetaceans. The former better cope with their training programs, dive to much greater depths and stay there longer, can better adapt to conditions of captivity and can stay longer on dry land, including conditions of transportation.

The second stage (1993 - 2004) was work with sea animals in the Murmansk Oceanarium, a stationary basin and sites at the Semenovskoye Lake. Specialists there regularly trained seals, studied their metabolic and immunological adaptation and their diets in captivity. It was established that their daily diets change appreciably at different times of the year with the maximum amounts of food required in March and the minimum in May. Specialists also determined individual and species predispositions to different products. Specialists also examined the processes of transition of young animals to rations offish after milk rations, and to dwelling in habitats enriched with microorganisms, including pathogenic microfiora.

At the present third stage of these studies specialists continue work on a complex of biotechnical systems which can offer protection from underwater terrorism in the area of a base of nuclear submarines in the Kola Bay. The Krasniye kamni aquacomplex and its experimental infrastructure are located in a bay which is connected with Saida Gulf during high tides. The complex includes laboratories and living quarters for the MMBI staff. In the zone of moorings on the coast of the Barents Sea there is a special flooded area for training of seals. This makes it possible to train Pinnipedia at any season of the year. The animals live in their natural conditions (water temperature and salinity, floating ice, tides, storms, etc.). All that makes it possible to use the animals for help to officers of a special detachment used against possible enemy acts of sabotage. The system of what we call aquastands in the Saida Gulf makes it pos-

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Primitive scheme of protection of objects by Arctic seals.

sible for seals to easily identify underwater objects of some standard shapes and sizes.

Keeping Pinnipedia all year round in the conditions close to their natural environment makes it possible to conduct some unique electrophysiological, bioacoustic and ethological experiments. Greenland and grey seals have been found to possess some individual traits of cardio-vascular activity which depend on the conditions of respiration, physical stresses and other factors changing their emotional-mental state. The collected information helps keep the animals in the proper conditions in the requited regime. Scientists of the Center have studied the response of sea hares to synthesized computer sounds and frequency-time characteristics of their acoustic apparatus. This makes it possible to select concrete vocal commands for controlling the animals' behavior.

One critical problem in dealing with what we call "service" animals is that of their unpermitted escapes with often fatal consequences mainly during breeding periods. Such losses are difficult to compensate. In the open bay area sea animals are trained in a free regime or being kept on a bridle. The initial training period for Pinnipedia lasts for about one year with their service life being from 15 to 20 years.

Controlling an animal's behavior from a distance makes it possible to use them much more effectively. One way of doing that consists of the non-invasive (without implanting electrodes into the brain) control of sensory organs. For that specialists are developing special radio-electronic sensors which provide information on an animal's pulse rate, etc. The data will be transmitted by means of electromagnetic waves when an animal reaches the surface, and for controlling its behavior in real time regime it is necessary to use ultrasonic methods. And although such communications are limited to a distance of 1 km, this happens to be quite enough for dealing with this problem.

Summing it up, using the aforesaid original method of electric stimulation of the nervous system and controlling the behavior of sea mammals, fish, birds, turtles, is the nearest perspective in the construction of biological and biorobototechnical complexes which can ward off potential terrorist acts. They can also help detect and deactivate underwater explosive devices and help guard the areas of naval and strategic objects to say nothing of monitoring of dangerous natural phenomena like tsunami, etc.

G. Matishov et al. "Sea Mammals Guard Strategic Objects". Vestnik Rossiyskoi akademii nauk, Vol. 75, No. 9, 2005

Prepared by Yaroslav RENKAS


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Yaroslav RENKAS, SEA ANIMALS GUARD THEIR HABITATS // London: Libmonster (LIBMONSTER.COM). Updated: 29.09.2018. URL: https://libmonster.com/m/articles/view/SEA-ANIMALS-GUARD-THEIR-HABITATS (date of access: 03.12.2021).

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