Friends of the Earth Brisbane
mbl 0411 118 737
Friends of the Earth Brisbane is alarmed at the disclosure that two US Harrier jets have dumped 500 pound bombs on the Great Barrier Reef earlier this week. (article below and at:
The US Marine jets are in Australia participating in US-Australia joint military exercise Talisman Saber, which sees 18,000 US and 9,000 Australian troops engaging in combined land, sea and air training, primarily at Shoalwater Bay, just north of Rockhampton in central Queensland.
Friends of the Earth campaigner, Robin Taubenfeld, was arrested yesterday while protesting Talisman Saber outside the Rockhampton Army Barracks. Earlier in the week, Ms Taubenfeld had raised her concerns about Talisman Saber to Prime Minister Rudd at the Rockhampton Community Cabinet. Friends of the Earth new report US bases in Australia: the social and environmental risks, released on Monday when the war games began, had also been presented to Environment Minister Mark Butler earlier in the evening.
Friends of the Earth’s concern about the military exercise are two-fold, Ms Taubenfeld explains: “As a social justice organisation we are alarmed by US military expansion and the role Australia’s participation in that in our region and further afield. As an environmental organisation, we are deeply concerned by the impacts that war and training for war has on our environment here and overseas.”
“As our report highlights, US military training has devastated numerous sites within the US and around the world, at Vieques, in the Philippines, in the Pacific.”
“Shoalwater Bay contains some of Queensland’s most pristine coast lines, including protected wetlands – its waters are part of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and include dugong and turtle habitats and whale migration routes.”
“War is not compatible with the environment and military training cannot be “green.” Neither Townshend Island, the intended destination for these bombs, nor any other part of the Great Barrier Reef should be used for military activity Talisman Saber must be stopped.”
Read Friends of the Earth’s report here: http://www.brisbane.foe.org.au/content/us-bases-australia-social-and-environmental-risks
For more information:
Friends of the Earth Brisbane, Robin Taubenfeld, 0411 118 737
Emergency forced jets to drop 4 unarmed bombs on Great Barrier Reef: US official
Phil Walter / Getty Images file
An aerial view of The Great Barrier Reef in Cairns, Australia. The bombs were dropped roughly 16 nautical miles south of Bell Cay in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.
By Jim Miklaszewski and Courtney Kube, NBC News
Two Marine Corps jets were forced to make an emergency jettison off the coast of Australia this week, dropping four unarmed bombs into the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, two U.S. officials told NBC News.
The two AV-8B Harriers were conducting a training mission on Tuesday that would have them drop the bombs on a range on Townshend Island. When the time came to drop the ordnance, the pilots were told that the range was not clear. After trying several times, they began to run low on fuel and realized they could not land with the bombs they were carrying.
“They chose to save the aircraft,” one U.S. official said, explaining that the Harriers could not land with the ordnance and they could not continue to wait with their shortage of fuel.
The Great Barrier Reef, the world’s largest coral reef, stretches more than 1,200 miles along the Queensland coast, from the mainland towns of Port Douglas to Bundaberg. The reef contains an abundance of marine life and comprises more than 3,000 individual reef systems and coral cays.
Each Harrier dropped two 500-pound bombs: one BDU 45 and one High Explosive GBU 12, for a total of four. The BDU 45s are inert and the GBU 12s were unarmed when released, so none of the bombs exploded.
A U.S. official explained that the chance that one of the two bombs could still explode is extremely remote.
The bombs were dropped roughly 16 nautical miles south of Bell Cay in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. The U.S. official said the pilots and commander selected a location at sea where the risk of reef damage would be minimal. The official described it as a “deep channel,” saying it was about 60 meters (about 197 feet) deep.
The bombs do not pose a danger to ships, the official explained.
The U.S. Navy is already in the early stages of planning a salvage operation to recover the bombs. The Marine Corps and Navy are also investigating the incident, along with Australian authorities.
The Harriers were attached to the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, which operates off of the USS Bonhomme Richard. They were exercising in the area in advance of Exercise Talisman Saber.