Target: U.S. 7th Fleet Public Affairs and U.S. 7th Fleet Commander Vice Admiral Scott H. Swift
Goal: Protect the fragile Great Barrier Reef ecosystem
On July 16, 2013 – the second day of a joint Australia-U.S. training exercise called Talisman Saber – four unarmed bombs were dropped over the Great Barrier Reef when two fighter jets launched from the USS Bonhomme Richard ran out of fuel. According to recent article in National Geographic, the U.S. Navy is considering retrieving the ordnances, saying they will look into retracting them if the Australian government and park services “determine that they want those recovered.” Lamented as the “the last thing the reef needs” by World Wildlife Fund-Australia’s Richard Leck, the Talisman Saber events necessitate a more detailed investigation, prompt extraction of the ordnances, and ultimately, the end to such destructive naval exercises on the reef.
The jettison of the 4 bombs represents only the most recent of numerous threats to the barrier reef – the largest structure on Earth built by living organisms and home to myriad species of marine plant and animal life. Frequent shipping and aircraft noise pose unnatural stressors to this environment. As stated by Felicia Wishart of the Australian Marine Conservation Society, poor land management causes 17 million tons of primarily anthropogenic agricultural runoff to flood the reef annually. According to a recent study in the respected journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS) of the United States, the total ramifications of human abuse to the reef are dire: the reef has lost an alarming 50 percent of its hard coral in the past 27 years.
The bombs of Talisman Saber have triggered public outcry from environmentalists and politicians alike, with Australian Senator Larissa Waters calling the ordnance “outrageous” and demanding reevaluation of how “we protect our World Heritage.” Urge the U.S. Navy to recognize the threat training exercises pose to the reef and put a stop to them immediately.
Dear U.S. 7th Fleet Public Affairs and U.S. 7th Fleet Commander Vice Admiral Scott H. Swift,
The release of 4 bombs during the joint Australian-U.S. training exercise Talisman Saber shows the pressing need to end these destructive exercises. Continual stressors from training exercises like these and various manmade sources from agriculture to industry have weakened this already fragile ecosystem. Consequently, the U.S. Navy must go beyond assuring the public that precautions were made during Talisman Saber to minimize damage and recognize that the reef must be protected from further damage.
I write urging you to end naval training exercises around the Great Barrier Reef. The bombing during Talisman Saber signals that time is now to defend our vulnerable ecosystems and protect the health of our planet.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: Celestine via Wilder Quarterly