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HOME  > Past issues  > 2019 March 20 - 26  > Henoko dugong found dead
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2019 March 20 - 26 TOP3 [SOCIAL ISSUES]

Henoko dugong found dead

March 20, 2019

A dead dugong, a marine mammal, was found floating off the coast of Nakijin Village in Okinawa on March 18. It is believed to be one of only three dugongs which were confirmed sighted in the waters off Henoko before the construction work for a U.S. base began.

Dugongs, one of the most endangered animals in the world, are designated as Japan’s natural treasure and inhabit coastal areas only near the Okinawa mainland. The water areas adjoining the reclamation site in Henoko are known to be feeding grounds for dugongs. A survey conducted by the Okinawa Defense Bureau in the past indicated the existence of three dugongs in the areas.

The secretary general of a civil group working to protect dugongs, Hosokawa Taro, said, “Judging from reports, the dead dugong is a female which we had previously found evidence of raising an offspring in the area near Henoko. As the whereabouts of the remaining two are unknown at this time, her death will deliver a devastating blow to the conservation of this rare marine mammal in Japan.”

On the following day in Tokyo, Okinawa Governor Tamaki Denny met with Prime Minister Abe Shinzo at the PM Office. In the meeting, Tamaki referred to the dead dugong and said, “It is necessary to determine the cause of death. In order to achieve this, I request the government to suspend the landfill work.”

The governor also demanded holding dialogues on the Henoko base issue. He added that as an effort to create an environment for eventful dialogue, he will withdraw the ongoing lawsuit seeking an injunction order against the landfill work which was filed on the grounds that Tokyo had launched the work without obtaining the governor’s permission to crush the seafloor rock at the site.

Along with the issue of a soft, unstable sea bottom at the reclamation site, Tamaki cited the February referendum expressing Okinawans’ opposition to the Henoko base project and the latest huge prefectural rally. He stressed that if the Abe government begins injecting sand and dirt into a new section of waters off Henoko, it will inevitably provoke fierce resistance by Okinawans.

PM Abe, however, showed his intent to go forward with the landfill work and gave no response to Tamaki’s request for dialogue.

Past related articles:
> 10,000 Okinawans rally to oppose Henoko base construction [March 18, 2019]
> Okinawa confronts PM Abe with overwhelming ‘No’ in Henoko referendum [February 25, 2019]
> Okinawa governor urges Pentagon to discuss protection of dugongs in Henoko [April 21, 2018]
> Nature conservation NGO calls for survey of dugong feeding grounds in Henoko [August 20, 2014]

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