According to animal rights activists, U.S. Navy's usage of dolphins to locate naval mines is questionable, as they may cause mine to explode:

The ethics behind using these mammals during war is still in question though, as they are reportedly large enough to set off an active mine.

source: Digital Journal "U.S. Navy to use dolphins against Iran"

I find it hard to believe, as naval mines are specifically designed to explode under big targets, often of very specific signature.

Is there any truth in animal rights activists' claims?

  • I know some mines are only triggered with electromagnetic detectors those won't be triggered by marine life Commented Jan 17, 2012 at 15:16
  • well, I know that the most modern mines are acoustic, but still there are older/simpler/cheaper magnetic and pressure activated ones. I don't have doubts about magnetic ones, but not sure about pressure activated ones.
    – vartec
    Commented Jan 17, 2012 at 16:02
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    There also exist (or have existed) pressure triggered and impact triggered mines. Commented Jan 17, 2012 at 18:45
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    If large sea mammals and fish can detonate (some subclass of) mines, surely it is irrelevant whether they are used to place the mines. The ethical question should be about whether the mines should be used at all in a wild environment where they could be triggered accidentally. But, the same applies to land mines, land animals, children and other civilians. Pretty soon you are left wondering if any mines are ethically sound! Where would THAT line of unpatriotic thought lead?!
    – Oddthinking
    Commented Jan 17, 2012 at 22:00
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    @Oddthinking Unexploded landmines are a huge problem in some places, for example, land mines are still injuring and killing people in Bosnia and Herzegovina, 17 years later.
    – Sam I Am
    Commented Jan 18, 2012 at 2:39

1 Answer 1


In Vietnam it the rivers were mined to prevent the safe passage of forces opposed to Ho Chi Minh. There were forces with the primary duty to clear these mines.

Mine clearance forces also were essential to the security of Vietnam's waterways. Nowhere was this more crucial than on the rivers near Saigon, the country's most vital port. Viet Cong mining of the main shipping channel, the Long Tau River, which wound its way through the Rung Sat Special Zone south of the capital, could have had a devastating effect on the war effort.

In addition the US used mines to prevent the VC from using the waterways.

This site has a listing of different munitions and this PDF has better specs on weapons deployed in Iraq. A contact mine does not care what contacts it but generally requires the contact have enough force to prevent accidental detonation from wave action or debris.

This US Navy Marine Mammal site claims:

Sea mines are made so that they cannot be set off easily by wave action or marine animals growing on or bumping into them.

However the UK Naval Mine Countermeasures site indicates that WWI Era Mines were more volatile. It also indicates that devices similar to the WWI designs have been used as recently as 1980 during the Iran-Iraq war, and that its forces are still called to deal with legacy WWI and WWII devices.

So the devices being deployed today are designed not to detonate due to contact with sea life. Their are older devices still found (though rarely now) that are not discriminant.

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