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Joint Exercises

Volume 498: debated on Tuesday 27 October 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) what recent assessment he has made of the environmental impact of the Joint Warrior military exercises; (295854)

(2) what steps his Department has taken to minimise the adverse environmental impact of military exercises conducted in Moray Firth.

[holding answer 26 October 2009]: The Ministry of Defence takes its responsibilities towards the environment very seriously. Prior to Exercise Joint Warrior, the Royal Navy consulted widely with interested parties such as non-governmental organisations, local authorities, various national rural agencies, and landowners. During the planning of the exercise, environmental impact assessments were conducted for all potentially damaging activities. All participants were given extensive briefs on safety and environmental considerations which specified that environmental awareness takes priority over military training objectives, and a precautionary approach is adopted to all aspects of the exercise which may have an environmental impact. Ships remain ready to take immediate action to minimise any risk. Before any active sonar transmissions, a full environmental impact assessment is conducted, look-outs are posted, and equipment is used to listen for marine mammal activity. If marine mammals are detected sonar transmissions are terminated or modified in order to minimise the risk. There are also continual monitoring procedures that ensure compliance with international pollution prevention standards and crews are also trained to manage onboard incidents to minimise environmental impacts. No environmental impact has been reported following the most recent Joint Warrior exercise.