Reefer Madness

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UIG via Getty Images

Overheard orange clownfish (Amphiprion percula) in the Great Barrier Reef: "Practicing for war can be hell."

Earlier this year, a Navy ship, the USS Guardian, grounded itself on the Philippine’s treasured Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park. Eventually, the vessel had to be cut apart and removed, piece by piece. The U.S. Navy agreed to pay a $1.4 million fine for damage done to the reef.

Now comes word that a pair of U.S. Marine Corps AV-8Bs, facing an “emergency situation,” had to jettison four unarmed bombs into the Coral Sea, off the coast of Australia –amid the famed Great Barrier Reef — on July 16. The aircraft were ordered to drop the 500-pound bombs after their planned target areas were deemed unsafe, and the planes could not return to their aircraft carrier with ordnance aboard, during Operation Talisman Saber 2013.

The U.S. Navy pledged, in a statement Friday, to retrieve them:

The U.S. military is aware of its professional responsibility to mitigate the environmental impact of its exercises/operations…In conducting the retrieval, Seventh Fleet will coordinate closely with the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and Australian Defence Force to ensure the environment is protected with the greatest care.

Could have been worse: back in 1966, four U.S. H-bombs rained down near the Spanish fishing village of Palomares.