For Immediate Release: September 7, 2004
International Conservation Groups Call on Bush & Koizumi to Save the Okinawa Dugong
New Airbase Would Destroy Essential Dugong Habitat
(California, USA/Okinawa, Japan) - A coalition of hundreds of US and international conservation groups representing over 10 million people sent a letter today to President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi urging the two leaders to cancel a plan to construct a new air base on top of a coral reef near Henoko, Okinawa, the feeding ground of the last remaining Okinawa Dugong (sea cow). Biologists believe building this landing strip could doom these gentle marine mammals to extinction.
The plan calls for Japan to build a new military base for American use atop coral reefs--effectively destroying the remaining habitat of the gentle dugong in Japan. The 1.5 mile-long airbase would also permanently disrupt one of the most biologically diverse areas in the Pacific.
The coral reefs in question provide important habitat for numerous rare wildlife species including the endangered dugong, a Japanese cultural icon related to the manatee, and three species of sea turtle. Local residents voted against the airbase project in a referendum, but Japanese and US authorities are ignoring their voices.
A coalition of US and Japanese conservation groups went to court in September 2003 to stop the project. The case is currently being heard in US District Court in San Francisco. The lawsuit asks the US Department of Defense to comply with the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) by publicly assessing the impacts of the proposed project on the Okinawa dugong. The NHPA requires US agencies to assess the impacts of their activities on cultural icons of foreign nations. Because of their significance to Okinawan culture, dugongs are included on a Japanese government list of protected cultural properties.
“The Department of Defense has a legal duty to protect the cultural resources and national monuments of other nations, especially our allies,” said Martin Wagner of Earthjustice, who is representing the coalition in the United States. “The Okanawa dugong is a cultural icon and national monument in Japan. This vanishing species deserves the same protection and respect that we give to the Washington Monument or bald eagle.”
The letter sent today was signed more than 400 organizations representing more than ten million concerned citizens worldwide.
“Construction of the new airbase would cause severe ecological damage to one of the most diverse ecosystems on earth,” said Peter Galvin of Center for Biological Diversity who organized the letter campaign. “ For this reason, conservation groups around the world are asking President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi to cancel the base construction plan and protect the Okinawa dugong, a creature recognized as a national monument in Japan.”
Letter Sent Below
September 7, 2004
Dear President Bush and Prime Minister Koizumi,
The island of Okinawa has been called the "Galapagos of the East" because of the incredible variety of marine and terrestrial life it supports.
Almost 400 types of coral form Okinawa’s reefs, which support more than 1,000 species of fish, marine mammals and sea turtles.
As two prominent world leaders, you have the power to protect these unique and priceless creatures. Unfortunately, a joint project backed by the United States and Japanese governments will destroy one of the last healthy reefs in Okinawa, pushing many magnificent species closer to extinction.
Current plans call for construction of a new military base at sea, atop a coral reef near Henoko in Okinawa. But the reef that this project would destroy supports numerous highly endangered species - animals protected by American, Japanese and international law. These species include:
Because of global warming, landfill and pollution, Okinawa's coral reefs, along with coral reefs around the world are already threatened. More than half of Okinawa’s coral reefs have disappeared over the past decade. This makes preserving the healthy reefs that continue to exist all the more important. By canceling the plan to construct the airbase near Henoko, you can help protect a globally important ocean ecosystem and some of the best remaining habitat for Okinawa dugong. We urge you to cancel this destructive project.
Peter Galvin, Conservation Director, Center for Biological Diversity ( USA)
Martin Wagner, International Program Director, Earthjustice ( USA)
Joel Reynolds, Senior Attorney, Natural Resources Defense Council
Carl Zichella, Regional Staff DirectorCA/NV/HI Field Office, Sierra Club
Priscilla Feral, President, Friend of Animals ( USA)
Andrew J. Orahoske, Land Air Water, University of Oregon’s environmental law society
Scott Hoffman Black, Executive Director, The Xerces Society
Cynthia Elkins, Program Director, Environmental Protection Information Center
David Gordon, Acting Executive Director, Pacific Environment ( USA)
Dr. Thomas J. Goreau, President, Global Coral Reef Alliance
William W. Rossiter, President Cetacean Society International
Dr. Jean-Luc Solandt, Biodiversity Policy Officer, Marine Conservation Society
Greg L. Carter, President, Oceanic Resource Foundation
Robert Rabin/Nilda Medina, Committee for the Rescue and Development of Vieques'
Tara Thornton, Executive Director, Military Toxics Project
Pamela K. Miller, Director, Alaska Community Action on Toxics (ACAT)
Alfredo Quarto, Exec. Dir., Mangrove Action Project
Ann Z. Olib, Executive Director, People's Task Force for Bases Cleanup Philippines
Drew Weiner, Director, Reef Protection International
Frederic Evenson, Ecological Rights Foundation
Alison Rolfe, San Diego Bay Keeper
Sigrid Lüber, ASMS, OceanCare
Puanani Rogers, Ho`okipa Network - Kauai
Kyle Kajihiro, American Friends Service Committee - Hawai'i
Gershon Cohen Ph.D., Project Director, Campaign to Safeguard America's Waters
Jim Albertini, President, Malu ` Aina Center For Non-violent Education & Action
Laura Olah, Executive Director, Citizens for Safe Water Around Badger
Cheryl A. Magill, Stop LFAS Worldwide Network
Dan Clark, Cry of the Water
Henk van der Keur, Laka Foundation ( Netherlands)
'Ohana Koa, Nuclear Free & Independent Pacific, Hawai'i Chapter
Carroll Muffett, Director of International Programs, Defenders of Wildlife
Tim Dillingham, Executive Director, American Littoral Society
Karen Sack, Oceans Policy Advisor, Greenpeace International
Lisa Finaldi, Greenpeace USA
Sarah Matsumoto, Western Representative, Endangered Species Coalition