January 2000Joint Declaration to Save the Dugong and Protect Yambaru
Against Construction of an Offshore US Military Base and Inland Helipads
Jointly declared by:
l Save the Dugong Fund
l Shiraho Reef Protection Society
l Okinawa Environmental Network
l Yambaru Wildlife Appreciation Society
l Full Moon Festival Peace GroupSupported by:
l World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF)The main island of Okinawa, the southernmost island prefecture of Japan, boasts a unique subtropical ecosystem and biologically diverse marine life. The wild northern forests of Yambaru are inhabited by the rare Okinawa Rail (Rallus Okinawae) and Pryer's Woodpecker (Sapheopipo noguchi), both endemic to this region. The surrounding reef is home to the endangered dugong, classified in the Washington Convention for International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in Appendix 1 (a species to be dealt with under the most strict regulations), and declared a Natural Symbol of Japan.From 1979 to the present day there have been numerous dugong sightings off the northeast coast of Okinawan island, verifying the permanent habitation of dugongs in this region. In 1997, a dugong sighting was reported by the Japanese Defense Agency in the preliminary survey for construction of an offshore military base on the northeast coast off Henoko village, Nago. In 1998, sightings were confirmed on 53 separate occasions. In 1998, three dugongs were sighted off the coast of Kayo in the northern municipality of Nago, and in April 1999, this number had risen to six.The Japanese government is endeavoring to destroy Yambaru forest and surrounding reefs with the 'relocation' of Futenma Airbase in central Okinawa to Nago municipality. This move will only lead to a strengthening of US military presence in Okinawa, already the location of the majority of US bases in Japan, and is hardly an answer to the majority vote given in a prefectural plebiscite in 1995 that US bases on the island be reduced. It also goes directly against the wishes of the inhabitants of Nago, who overwhelmingly voted against the construction of an offshore heliport in a local plebiscite in 1997. This plan also includes the building of seven new military helicopter pads above Fukuchi dam in the upper reaches of Yambaru.The construction of these helipads is certain to have a disastrous impact on the natural environs and biological diversity of Yambaru. Land reclamation needed for the construction of an offshore base will destroy the fragile reef ecosystem, causing irreparable damage to coral and marine plants vital for the survival of the dugongs. The conducting of military exercises between the new north Kunigami helipads, the offshore base near Henoko, and the existing Kadena base in central Okinawa on a frequent basis will, through low frequency sound vibrations and high level noise pollution, undoubtedly undermine the peace and well being of local inhabitants and endanger wildlife.We totally oppose the construction of this new US military base, which will destroy the rich natural environment that is our livelihood and which through military reinforcement will threaten the peace of Okinawa and neighboring Asian countries. Okinawa's desire for peace cannot be bought through 'economic stimulus' packages. The WWF and IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) have already established the Nansei Island chain, of which Okinawa is the largest island, as one of the 'Global 200' ecological hotspots to be protected in the name of biological diversity. We demand to both the US and Japanese governments the immediate cessation of all plans to build a new military base in Okinawa, and the urgent introduction of a comprehensive environmental policy to protect endangered species within Nansei Islands and surrounding reefs, including the last remaining dugong in Japan.We are all facing the immense task of trying to preserve peace and a healthy environment for the twenty-first century. The protection of abundant reefs which serve as habitat for numerous species including the dugong, and the forests of Yambaru - described by the Prince of the Netherlands as "the most important site in Japan for biodiversity conservation" - is the responsibility of each and every Okinawan, and our obligation to future generations.
We beseech help and support from the people of Japan, the US, and across the globe, in our endeavor to protect the forests of Yambaru inhabited by the Pryer's Woodpecker and the subtropical reefs of northeast Okinawa essential for the survival of the dugong, and to build a peaceful and ecologically sustainable world for the twenty-first century.In accordance with the above, we resolve to undertake the following:
l The implementation of a comprehensive scientific study by a highly regarded international organization (IUCN, WWF etc.) for the preservation of the reef ecosystem of northeast Okinawa and the Yambaru forest, and the protection of the endangered dugong.
l The implementation of a national survey on the preservation of Yambaru and the protection of the dugong in Okinawa.
l The implementation of a comprehensive policy to promote sustainable and community based management of local resources.
l The promotion of action both within and outside of Japan to preserve the forests of Yambaru and protect the dugong of northeast Okinawa, demanding to the Japanese government that plans to construct a new military base off the coast of Henoko and helicopter pads in the region above Fukuchi dam are withdrawn.