Okinawa Defense Bureau asks prefectural government to relocate hermit crabs in preparation for Henoko construction

October 16, 2015 Ryukyu Shimpo

On October 15, it was discovered that the Okinawa Defense Bureau sent a request to the Okinawa Prefectural Board of Education asking for permission to capture and relocate Coenobita hermit crabs, designated a natural monument by the national government, in advance of starting construction of a new U.S. military base in Henoko. Under the Cultural Properties Protection Law, the board of education is obligated to compile a written opinion and send it along with the necessary documents to the head of the Agency of Cultural Affairs, who will make the final decision. The cultural property division of the prefectural education bureau is currently preparing the documents.

According to the cultural property division, the Defense Bureau submitted the request on September 14. After the board of education requested submission of maps and other necessary documents that had been missing, all the necessary documents were submitted in early October. Members of the board of education received notice on October 15. The next board meeting will be held on October 22. Satoaki Moromi, head of the Education Agency, said that the board will take into account all relevant circumstances and opinions from the board members when moving forward.

The Cultural Properties Protection Law stipulates that when a government agency plans a project that will impact the conservation of a designated national monument, permission must be granted by the head of the Agency of Cultural Affairs after the issue is reviewed by the local board of education. The board of education will discuss the issue, consult with experts, and then compose a written statement of opinion to be sent to the Agency of Cultural Affairs.

The Defense Bureau has explained that they aim to ensure the conservation of individual hermit crabs by relocating them to shoreline areas where they can thrive. This plan is based on the former governor’s written statement on the environmental impact assessment of the Henoko land reclamation and base construction. When the former governor authorized the Henoko land reclamation, he ordered the establishment of an environmental surveillance committee. The committee was asked to provide an opinion on measures to conserve land and sea animals, including Coenobita hermit crabs, at their meeting in June.

According to environmental conservation documents submitted to the former governor by the Defense Bureau along with their request for authorization to reclaim land in a public body of water, 1,189 breeding Coenobita hermit crabs were found in a 2008 survey of the area where the Futenma replacement facility and construction yard are to be built.

(Translation by T&CT and Sandi Aritza)

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