Navy’s role in sustainable management practices: in focus on World Oceans Day

This article has photo gallery Published on LEUT Jessica Craig (author), POIS Helen Frank (photographer), LSIS Ronnie Baltoft (photographer)

Topic(s): Hydrography and Oceanography, Environment

Able Seaman Clearance Diver Daniel Bird, left, and Leading Aircraftman Aiden Galea free a turtle from a discarded fishing net in northern Australian waters, in 2014. (photo: Unknown)
Able Seaman Clearance Diver Daniel Bird, left, and Leading Aircraftman Aiden Galea free a turtle from a discarded fishing net in northern Australian waters, in 2014.

For as long as there has been life on earth, oceans have provided a vital source of sustenance and wonder.

At around 3000 to 1500 BCE, the Austronesian peoples were the first to invent ocean-going boats which enabled their expansion around the Indo-Pacific and set the groundwork for sailing technology and trade routes.

In 1872, HMS Challenger laid the groundwork for oceanographic research and academia, undertaking the first global marine research expedition. She collected sediment from the sea bed and was equipped with a laboratory and dredging platform.

Fast forward to today, the world’s oceans are a vital trade link for countries, supply 3.1 billion people with their primary source of protein and have become more widely recognised for their integral contribution to life on earth.

For Australia, the sustainable management of surrounding oceans is imperative to our island nation lives. Beach lifestyles are ingrained into our culture, just as much sea-bound trade and exports affect the way we live and thrive.

According to the National Marine Science Committee, by 2025 Australian marine industries will contribute $100 billion a year to the economy.

So what is the Royal Australian Navy’s contribution to using, conserving and protecting the world’s oceans?

The 8 June 2020 World Oceans Day theme is ‘Innovation for a Sustainable Ocean’. Lieutenant Jacob Hobbs from the Navy Environment Bureau said, in line with the Chief of Navy’s Environmental Policy Statement and the Defence Environmental Strategic Plan 2016-2036, Navy is constantly innovating its policies to ensure it is meeting the obligations of good environmental stewardship.

“Navy is committed to proactively minimising its environmental impact and recognises sound stewardship of our oceans and resources as fundamental to Navy’s activities and the future of Australia,” Lieutenant Hobbs said.

“The Navy Environment Bureau manages the Navy Environmental Management System which develops policies that align with up-to-date, best-practice environmental practices.

“At the moment we are working on a number of policies which ensure our ships at sea are absolutely minimising their impact on the marine environment.

“Navy has recently had a focus on waste, declaring a war on waste and implementing the sea bins initiative,” he said.

In addition to policy creation and implementation, Navy plays an active role in protecting sea lanes which enable critical trade.

Navy is also involved in deterring illegal fishing vessels which threaten sustainability, supporting the quarantine barrier that aims to stop arrival of threatening pests and diseases, removing ‘ghost’ fishing nets which harm protected species, and undertaking hydrographic surveying which helps develop nautical charts for safe navigation at sea.