Center for Biological Diversity

Media Advisory, June 26, 2018

Contact:  Patrick Sullivan, (415) 517-9364,

   Dugong Mascot to Join Courthouse Rally Against U.S. Military’s Threat to Endangered Marine Mammal

San Francisco Protest, Legal Action Aim to Protect Gentle Manatee Relatives

SAN FRANCISCO— A large dugong mascot will join American and Japanese conservationists for a courthouse rally Thursday against a U.S. military base that could wipe out Okinawa dugongs, among the world’s most endangered marine mammals.

The rally will precede a key hearing in a historic lawsuit that aims to halt construction of the base, which would fill in and pave over some 125 acres of rich coral and seagrass habitat crucial to the handful of surviving Okinawa dugongs.

“This huge airbase would be a death sentence for the Okinawa dugong,” said Peter Galvin, cofounder of the Center for Biological Diversity. “The U.S. military needs to rethink its plan to pave over this beautiful bay and crush crucial dugong habitat. We have to save these wonderful, culturally significant animals from this destructive project.”

Inside the courthouse a federal judge will hear the suit, which was filed by the Center, Turtle Island Restoration Network, and Japanese conservation groups and Okinawan residents under the U.S. National Historic Preservation Act. Dugongs are ancient cultural icons for the Okinawan people.

What: Courthouse rally and hearing on lawsuit to defend endangered Okinawa dugongs from a destructive U.S. military base in Henoko Bay in Japan.

When: Thursday, June 28; rally at noon; hearing at 1:30 p.m.

Where: Phillip Burton Federal Building, 450 Golden Gate Ave., San Francisco. Rally in front of courthouse; hearing in courtroom 5.

Who: Giant dugong mascot; speakers will include Peter Galvin, cofounder of the Center for Biological Diversity; Hideki Yoshikawa, international director of Save the Dugong Campaign Center; and Todd Steiner, executive director of the Turtle Island Restoration Network.

Thursday’s hearing follows a landmark 2017 ruling by the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals that affirmed the right of conservation groups to sue to compel the U.S. military to fully consider the base’s impacts. The plaintiffs are represented by Earthjustice.

Dugongs have long been revered by native Okinawans and even celebrated as “sirens” that bring friendly warnings of tsunamis. The dugong is listed as an object of national cultural significance under Japan’s Law for the Protection of Cultural Properties. Under the U.S. National Historic Protection Act and international law, the United States must avoid or mitigate harm to places or things of cultural significance to another country. 

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.6 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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