Henoko construction should be halted to protect scarce coral from further destruction


October 3, 2017 Ryukyu Shimpo


A scarce type of coral has been discovered in the ocean area on the south side of Cape Henoko, where the Japanese government plans to do land reclamation for the construction of a new base in Henoko, Nago City.

The Okinawa Defense Bureau (ODB) will soon apply for the governor of Okinawa’s approval in order to transplant the coral to another place.

In July there were 14 colonies of scarce coral found, and subsequently 13 of those were destroyed.

Although the ODB denies that this was an effect of construction, it has not adequately proven otherwise.


If the ODB plans to save the coral, it should exemplify preservation measures by temporarily halting construction for investigations into the locations of the coral and the effects of construction on these sites.


The ODB explained that the Environmental Oversight Committee has begun convening sessions at the Ministry of Defense to address the presence of scarce coral.

Beginning in June the ocean area on the south side of Cape Henoko was surveyed, and 14 coral colonies containing types of coral on the Ministry of the Environment’s Marine Red List such as Porites okinawensis Veron, which is classified as “Vulnerable” (VU), were discovered.


This is the first time an ODB investigation has found threatened species of coral.


There are 74,000 colonies of coral at the land reclamation site in Henoko that the ODB should transplant elsewhere.

Actually, the Okinawa Prefectural Government (OPG) had requested transplantation before construction, saying at the time that if the plan was to save the coral then transplantation should take place prior to starting construction.


However, the ODB has denied that the destruction of the coral was an effect of construction, as only land construction work has been conducted in the surroundings of the ocean area on the south side of Cape Henoko.

On the north side of Cape Henoko K9 embankment construction has been underway since April.

Impacts such as cloudy water were observed when stones were lowered into place, and it is possible that the embankment changed tidal currents.

Can it really be said that there was no effect from construction?


Furthermore it will become necessary to ask where the scarce coral should be transplanted, see if it will be able to breed and grow there, and study what effect it will have on the ecosystem into which it is transplanted.


Despite there being 74,000 colonies that might be transplanted, the ODB is only applying for the governor’s special harvesting approval for one coral colony.

This, too, is inscrutable.


Governor of Okinawa Takeshi Onaga, who opposes new base construction in Henoko, has only one power at his disposal to use for halting construction; that is his authority to approve coral harvesting. But if the OPG were to not give special approval for coral harvesting, we could expect the Japanese government to put out materials criticizing the OPG for “not protecting the coral.”


To sum up, the application is not concerned with nature conservation, but is decisively political.


In light of the neglect to make a report despite the scarce types of coral being discovered, the OPG has given the ODB administrative guidance to halt construction.

On top of halting construction, the OPG has requested that the ODB allow it U.S. base entrance in order to survey the situation.

From a position with the authority to grant special approval for coral harvesting, it is natural to make this request.


Coral is a cradle for marine life.

If corals are destroyed, it will bring about great harm for other living things.

The Ministry of the Environment identifies the north and central region of Okinawa Island including Henoko Bay as a marine area of high biological significance.

In contradiction with itself, the Japanese government is reclaiming land in the ocean area where inherently precious, scarce coral live.

The government should reconsider its action. Besides, it has no choice but to halt construction.


(English translation by T&CT and Erin Jones)


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