SYDNEY, July 26 (Reuters) - The U.S. Navy said on Friday itwould lead the effort to recover four unarmed bombs it wasforced to drop in Australia's World Heritage-listed GreatBarrier Reef marine park.
The U.S. 7th Fleet would take the lead in recovering the bombs, coordinating with Australian authorities to ensure "theenvironment is protected with the greatest care", it said in astatement.
"We are fully committed to redressing any potential adverseenvironmental impact in a timely manner," the Navy said, addingit would announce more detailed plans as they were finalised.
U.S. Navy Harrier fighter jets were forced to drop thebombs, two inert and two carrying explosives but not armed,after civilian boats were spotted near their original targetduring a biennial joint exercise with the Australian DefenceForce.
The bombs were lying in 50 to 60 metres (160 ft to 200 ft)of water, posed little risk to the reef or shipping and could easily be picked up by divers, according to the Navy.
Environmentalists have criticised holding such large-scalemilitary exercises in sensitive areas such as the Great BarrierReef, which is under threat from increased commercial shipping,climate change and an invasive starfish infestation, the UnitedNations says. (Reporting by Maggie Lu Yueyang; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)