ADF vigilant of environmental protection during Northern Shield
23 September 2015
Environmental stewardship near Exmouth has been more than checking out spectacular views and whale watching from the air during Exercise NORTHERN SHIELD.
The inaugural exercise, an Australian Defence Force (ADF) training activity, took place in the Gulf Coast of North West Australia over mid to late September 2015 in an area adjacent to the World Heritage Listed Ningaloo Reef.
A vital aspect of operating in a location of high ecological importance is the ADF's responsibility to ensure the exercise had minimal environmental impact particularly prior to Army Commandos parachuting into the ocean.
Ms Danielle Rob, a conservation officer from the Exmouth office of the WA Department of Parks and Wildlife, said it was vital environmental surveys were conducted to ensure whales and other marine life were not disturbed during the exercise.
"The Exmouth coast is the most significant resting ground for migrating Humpback whales in the whole of the Southern Hemisphere," Ms Rob said.
"We took a flight to get an aerial picture of where the whale pods were located. It was crucial to do an environmental survey to make sure we weren't having any impact on the animals," she said.
Surveying the environment during the exercise was an ongoing task, with rangers from the Department of Parks and Wildlife taking part to keep an eye on things, as well as ensuring the Drop Zones were clear.
"As part of the mitigation strategies to guarantee we didn't have an impact on the whales, we actually had one of our marine rangers from the Department go out on the boats with the military to ensure that everything went according to plan," Ms Rob said.
Lieutenant Colonel David Hoey, the Environmental Officer for Exercise NORTHERN SHIELD, said Defence always strives to be good environmental stewards.
"Protecting the nation is not just about the physical forces but also about protecting the environment and the things we all hold important," Lieutenant Colonel Hoey said.
"This is even more relevant when we are operating near a World Heritage listed environment," he said.
"It is crucial we maintain a trust with the Australian people, particularly local communities, about what we are doing in the country," Lieutenant Colonel Hoey said.