Bite marks of dugong found close to Henoko relocation area

Bite marks of dugong found close to Henoko relocation area

Newly found dugong bite marks in Oura Bay on April 15 (Photograph provided by the Diving Team Rainbow).

April 16, 2015 Ryukyu Shimpo

Dugong bite marks were found on April 15 at a depth of 19.7 meters under water in a part of Oura Bay adjacent to the planned Henoko base. Dugong bite marks have never been found at such a depth in Japan before. There is a possibility that the seabed-boring survey off Henoko has driven the animals into deeper waters.

The Dugong Network Okinawa, Northern Limit Dugong Research Team Zan, and Diving Team Rainbow of the Helicopter Base Objection Association found the marks outside the temporary restricted area. The divers confirmed 35 bite marks in an area of the sea-bed, 50 meters in diameter. They say the latest marks were made about a week ago. The length of the marks are relatively short, at between 1.9 and 10.5 meters. The marks seem to have been made by the youngest of the three dugongs that the Okinawa Defense Bureau claim inhabit the waters around the main island of Okinawa.

Morihide Tanahara, a representative of the Dugong Network Okinawa said, “I think the boring survey forced the marine mammals to move to a deeper part of the sea to eat. The dugong pushed itself to be in such deep-water.” Mariko Abe of the Nature Conservation Society of Japan said, “It is rare that dugongs eat at a depth of 19.7 meters under water.” Abe added, “There is a high possibility that the boring survey could have driven the marine mammals out of the shallow waters, where bite marks of dugongs have previously been observed.”

There have been concerns that the boring survey could drive dugongs away from their feeding sites. Although the society requested the U.S. military in Japan carry out a survey on dugong feeding habits within the restricted area, the request was rejected. A survey carried out by the defense bureau confirmed the existence of dugongs on September 1 2014. Since then, the bureau has not made any announcements confirming the existence of dugongs.

(English translation by T&CT)

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