Editorial: The Government of Japan should abide by IUCN advisement regarding Henoko
September 2, 2016 Ryukyu Shimpo
Six Japanese NGOs, including the Nature Conservation Society of Japan, jointly submitted a recommendation to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) on how to deal with invasive species that will be introduced during construction of a new base in Henoko. The IUCN adopted this recommendation by a majority vote.
In regards to construction of a new base in Henoko the IUCN recommends establishing a means to resist the introduction of invasive species mixed in with materials for land reclamation. The recommendation is requesting that the Japanese government establish a method of preemptively detecting invasive species mixed in with the soil for land reclamation, and appealing for the U.S. government to choose adequate means to protect against invasive species.
One could say that by putting up such a high hurdle in the way of land reclamation work related to new base construction in Henoko, the recommendation is actually pressuring the U.S. and Japanese governments to abandon construction.
Construction of the new base will require 21 million cubic meters of soil, enough to fill the Okinawa Prefectural Office 70 times, 17 million tons of which will be hauled in from Kyushu and Shikoku. The locations outside Okinawa from which the soil will be collected are confirmed to be home to nine species that are poisonous or likely to be destructive to native species, such as the Argentine ant and redback spider.
It is nigh impossible for every single specimen of an invasive species to be detected in these large quantities of soil. There is no adequate method to protect against introduction of an invasive species, or to establish preemptive detection of these species in the soil.
The best method for protecting against the introduction of invasive species is to not haul soil from outside Okinawa. The only way for the Japanese government to abide by the IUCN recommendation is to abandon construction of a new base in Henoko.
Even if the recommendation is not legally binding, given that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of the Environment are members of the IUCN, the Japanese government has the duty and the responsibility to comply with the recommendation.
If the Japanese government disregards this IUCN recommendation as it has three times before with recommendations to protect Dugongs, because it did not share the same sentiments, Japan will lose the trust of the international community.
Japan hosted the 10th Convention on Biological Diversity in 2010, and compiled international goals to protect biodiversity called the Aichi Targets. These goals include conserving at least 17 percent of landmass, conserving at least 10 percent of the marine areas, and preventing extinction of any endangered species by 2020.
The Japanese government must not commit the foolishness of filling in the ocean where the new base is planned for construction, when that stretch of water should become a nature preserve.
The Ministry of the Environment designates the north central shoreline of Okinawa’s main island, including Henoko Bay, as an ocean area of high priority. The government should change its inconsistent posture of pursuing land reclamation in an ocean area that is valuable for its nature.
(English translation by T&CT and Erin Jones)
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