The U.S. Navy says there's no truth to a widely circulating report that its mine-hunting dolphins are heading for the Black Sea, where the Russian Navy has recently taken control of Ukraine's military-trained dolphins.
The report popped up on the Russian newspaper Izvestia's website on Monday, in connection with claims that NATO countries might participate in military exercises with Ukraine or other nations in the Black Sea region this summer.
The report includes extensive quotes from a a source that Izvestia identified as Navy spokesman Tom LaPuzza — and it spawned follow-up items at online outlets ranging from the Daily Mail to The Wire to International Business Times UK.
A trainer works with a dolphin that used to belong to a top-secret division of the Soviet Navy in the military port of Sevastopol.
Such items caught the attention of Ed Budzyna, who really is a spokesman for the U.S. Navy Marine Mammal Program in San Diego. For decades, the Navy has been training dolphins and seals to identify explosives, mines and other foreign objects underwater — as have the Russians and Ukrainians.
The U.S. Navy has even been known to send its dolphins for duties in far-flung regions such as the Persian Gulf. But not this time.
"There's no basis to the story," Budzyna told NBC News. He said that as far as he knew, the dolphins were staying put this summer.
Budzyna noted that LaPuzza had been a spokesman for the Marine Mammal Program years back, but no longer. Efforts to contact LaPuzza, and efforts to figure out how Izvestia got its information, have so far been unsuccessful.
First published April 21 2014, 11:35 AM
Alan Boyle is the science editor for NBC News Digital. He joined MSNBC.com at its inception in July 1996, and took on the science role in July 1997 with the landing of NASA's Mars Pathfinder probe. Boyle is responsible for coverage of science and space for NBCNews.com.
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Boyle joined NBCNews.com from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, where he was the foreign desk editor from 1987 to 1996. Boyle has won awards for science journalism from numerous organizations, including the National Academies, the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the National Association of Science Writers. Boyle is the author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference." He lives in Bellevue, Wash.