Greenpeace Japan calls for dugong rescue in Okinawa

The opulent underwater ecosystem of Henoko in Okinawa Japan is now under threat. A plan to build a U.S. military air base over the reef is underway now. The sea off Henoko is rich with coral reef and sea grass where dugongs and many different kinds of anemone fish live. The sea grass, especially, is the dugong’s staple and is indispensable for its survival.

The construction has already started with the so-called boring survey which aims to drill many holes in the coral reef. The scaffoldings built in the sea have destroyed the coral in numerous locations. Some fear that dugongs will not approach the vicinity because of the construction noise. An immediate cancellation of the project is the only choice.

“It is hypocritical for the United States to threaten an endangered animal such as the dugong in Japan, while it protects the dugong’s close relatives, the manatees in Florida” – said John Passacantando, Greenpeace US executive director during his visit to Okinawa. “In the US, manatees are the focus of conservation and nature preservation programs. How can we justify driving their cousins to extinction in Japan?”

As the construction is threatening Japan’s last dugong population, Greenpeace is calling for the designation of a marine reserve to protect this precious animal and its marine habitat.

“The waters of Henoko should be made a marine reserve, not an airbase,” said Greenpeace oceans campaigner Karli Thomas. “A marine reserve would not only protect biodiversity, but would be an investment in the future for Okinawa. An airbase would bring destruction, extinction and opposition.”

Source: Greenpeace Press Release, March 12, 2005

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