Defense Bureau confirms presence of dugongs 31 times during Henoko landfill investigation

January 25, 2014 Ryukyu Shimpo

The Okinawa Defense Bureau investigated the habitat of the endangered species the dugong from an aircraft over 35 days between September 2011 to January 2013 in preparation for moving the US Marine Corps Air Station Futenma to Henoko, Nago. They confirmed the presence of dugongs 31 times in 29 days in the waters off Kayo on the north side of Henoko, and in the waters of Kori Island off the west coast.

The defense bureau has observed the dugongs off Henoko. It was found that the dugongs’ activity covered a wide range of sea around the main island of Okinawa. The Okinawa Prefectural Government revealed the documents in response to a request from the media, including the Ryukyu Shimpo, based on the Freedom of Information Act. The investigation report on the dugong was included in letters exchanged between the Okinawa Prefectural Government and the defense bureau on the landfill application. According to the documents, which the defense bureau submitted to the Okinawa Prefectural Government, they found dugongs 15 times in the waters off Kayo, four times off Kori in a wide-area habitat survey. They also observed the animals 12 times off Kayo by the survey within the specified area.

The defense bureau speculates that two of the three dugongs they found are parent and calf. The calf has been independent from its parents since May 2008 and moves around the wide area from the west to the east coast. The defense bureau confirmed evidence of traces eaten by dugongs three times in the Henoko area during the period in which they investigated 11 times. However, the number of times that dugongs have eaten in the Henoko area was much less than that in Kayo. Therefore, the defense bureau estimates that the dugongs used the seagrass beds in the Henoko area within the limited use.

(English translation by T&CT)

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