Dugong not seen since 2015, possibly due to impact of Oura Bay construction

Dugong not seen since 2015, possibly due to impact of Oura Bay construction

Photograph taken in 2005 by Hirokazu Nakazato. A dugong swims serenely in the sea off the coast of Henoko, Nago City. A dugong was also photographed swimming with a green sea turtle roughly seven kilometers off the coast of Henoko by NHK in 2014.


October 27, 2016 Ryukyu Shimpo

On October 25, it was learned that the dugong, a natural monument of Japan, has not been observed in Oura Bay since January 2015. The Okinawa Defense Bureau sunk large concrete blocks into the sea off the coast of Henoko, Nago City around that time, and nature conservation groups point to the impact of the construction work there as the reason dugong have not been observed. The Defense Bureau has currently suspended surveys of marine life, and nature conservation groups are calling on the prefectural government to see that the surveys are resumed immediately.

The information about the dugong was revealed in a document obtained from the Okinawa Defense Bureau by Mariko Abe of the Nature Conservation Society of Japan (NACS-J) and Hideki Yoshikawa of the Save the Dugong Campaign Center via House of Representatives member Seiken Akamine of the Communist Party. The document is titled “Schwab (2014) Marine Life Survey Report”.

According to the report, the Okinawa Defense Bureau conducted aerial surveys on a total of twenty days in January, May, September, and November of 2015. They sighted dugong in the Kayo sea area nine times (a total of nine dugong) and in the sea around Kourijima three times (a total of four dugong). In a survey of the range of the dugong’s habitat conducted in important sea areas, dugong were sighted eight times (a total of eight dugong) in the Kayo sea area. However, no dugong were sighted near Oura Bay in the 2015 survey, despite the fact that dugong were sighted twice near Oura Bay in a follow-up survey in 2014.

Additionally, according to the report, no new signs of dugong feeding were observed north of Cape Henoko after August 2014, when the Okinawa Defense Bureau set up floats and anchors in that area.

Mariko Abe of the NACS-J emphasized that it is very problematic that no survey has been conducted for over six months, since the Okinawa Defense Bureau suspended its surveys in March when the national and prefectural governments came to an out-of-court settlement in litigation over the Henoko construction. The prefectural government is unable to conduct its own surveys in the restricted area, and there are also limits to the quality of and budget for such surveys. “[The prefectural government] should make the Okinawa Defense Bureau resume their surveys immediately,” said Abe.

(English translation by T&CT and Sandi Aritza)

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