Okinawa Defense Bureau confirms traces of dugongs eating seaweed in the sea around Henoko

Okinawa Defense Bureau confirms traces of dugongs eating seaweed in the sea around Henoko

The report on the dugongs’ behavior during May, September and November 2013.


May 23, 2014 Ryukyu Shimpo

The Okinawa Defense Bureau released a research report on the living organisms in the waters around Camp Schwab, on May 22. The research was carried out from November 2012 to March 2013. The defense bureau is proceeding with building a new base to replace Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Henoko, Nago. The defense bureau has now announced a key finding from the 2013 survey; traces of dugongs eating seaweed and seagrass beds on the Oura Bay side of Henokozaki, the proposed the landfill site. Seaweeds, such as eelgrass, which dugongs feed on, abound in the area, according to the research. The defense bureau saw 17 dugongs over 15 days in Kayo, Oura Bay and the sea near Kouri Island.

Meanwhile, volunteer research group “Zan” found more than 30 traces of seagrass eaten by dugongs on the Oura Bay side of Henokozaki by May 21. Some experts stress that the planned site for landfill is likely to be an important feeding ground for dugongs. The survey data suggests that the habitat of the dugong covers a wide range of areas from the east side of the northern part of the main island to the west coast. Environmental protection groups are concerned that the landfill construction will affect the dugongs because the proposed area for dredging sand and transporting it for landfill is part of their habitat.

According to the research report , the number of dugongs there is three, a male, female, and their child.

Taro Hosokawa, the deputy secretariat of the Okinawa Dugong Network, said, “The dugongs found in Kouri Island in the past have moved to Oura Bay, and they might live in the east coast. He pointed out that Oura Bay of Henokozaki has possibly become one of a few feeding grounds of the dugongs. He doubts that only three dugongs live there. He said, “It is difficult to identify individuals other than the dugong that has the split tail fin.”

The defense bureau started the environmental investigation at the planned site in 2009. It has now released the report in its website.

(English translation by T&CT)

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