Henoko-Ōura Bay Hope Spot: Save Our Oceans by Becoming a Hope Spot supporter!

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The area around Henoko-Ōura Bay is one of the world’s finest biodiversity spots. It begins in the mangrove forests and mudflats near the mouth of the Ōura River. In the shallows lie the greatest sea grass beds in Okinawa; farther out lie muddy and sandy bottoms, while breathtakingly beautiful corals in the bay provide a cradle of life for numerous species. So far, 5,334 different species have been identified there, 262 of them listed as Endangered.

The dugong, designated a national Natural Monument, lives there and endangered turtles come ashore there to lay their eggs. The many other natural treasures include the genetically unique colonies of blue coral at Chiribishi and limestone caverns with rare columns containing coral grains. 

However, the US and Japanese governments are currently landfilling the waters of Henoko-Ōura Bay in order to build a new military base. Construction started in earnest in April 2017. As of July 2019, 3% of the area is reported to have been landfilled, but the area environmentally affected by the construction work is estimated to be far larger. If the project is not terminated now, this precious natural environment will be lost forever.

In October 2019, in recognition of the invaluable marine environment and the efforts made to preserve it for posterity, the Henoko-Ōura Bay site was designated the first Hope Spot in Japan. This “Mission Blue” project was initiated by the world-famous marine scientist Dr. Sylvia Earle. Since 2009, the organization has been designating the world’s most significant marine areas for protection by a “conservation net”. Currently approximately 110 sites worldwide have been designated, and now the Henoko-Ōura Bay has become the first Japanese site to be chosen. Now, the worldwide net of Hope Spots joins hands to protect Henoko-Ōura Bay.

If the construction project is not terminated now, not only the newly-registered Henoko-Ōura Bay area, but Hope Spots around the world will be devalued. That’s why your help is needed right now.

Please sign the petition now and become a supporter of the first Japanese Hope Spot.

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To the Prime Minister, Mr Shinzo Abe

Since the completion of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the new base in Henoko (Futenma Replacement Facility Construction Project) a number of new factors have arisen, notably: the discovery of formerly unknown species and other species previously unrecorded in Japan; the discovery of the existence of very soft seabed; limestone caves in Nagashima with geologically rare columns that have grown by absorbing coral fragments. Further, it has come out that the rubble to be used for the landfill will be supplied from other parts of Japan, and that huge quantities of sand will be required to stabilize the newly-discovered soft seabed. the import of rubble and sand from other parts of the country raises the risk of introducing invasive alien species, as well as destroying the natural environment in the parts of Japan it is removed from.

We respectfully ask the Japanese government to call a temporary halt to the construction. We request that you carry out a new EIA regarding the factors above, and also EIAs for the sources of the rubble and sand required for the project.
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To the Governor of Okinawa, Mr Denny Tamaki,

The destruction of the natural environment surrounding the construction site in Henoko is continuing. Protections for the area need to be strengthened.

Since the Japanese government refuses both to halt the construction and to protect the surroundings, we request that the prefecture of Okinawa itself make far greater efforts to protect its natural treasure at Henoko-Ōura Bay. There are a number of ways that the prefecture could use its powers to cast a protective net over the site: to designate it a Natural National Heritage under the 1950 Act on Protection of Cultural Properties; to register it under the agreement with eco-tourism stakeholders on sustainable use of environmental conservation sites; to designate the area a Wildlife Protection Area with a view to future designation as a Ramsar Site.

As you are committed to conserving this world-class marine site, we hope you will use prefectural powers to take further steps toward protecting it. We sincerely hope you will do your best to preserve these important sites; the blue corals of Chiribishi, the limestone caves of Nagashima and the mouth of the Ōura River, from the deleterious effects of the construction project in the bay.

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A message from Mariko Abe, a Hope Spot Champion from NACS-J:

We believe it is essential for us to re-examine the value of the natural environment of Henoko-Ōura Bay in order to preserve it for our descendants. We wish to re-assess the effects of the construction project on the natural environment, compare the merits and demerits of the project, and determine whether the project really has sufficient value to compensate for the damage to the natural environment. We expect the Okinawan prefectural government to do all in its power to protect the Henoko-Ōura Bay area, one of Okinawa’s treasures, for the future.
We hope that you, the people of Japan and of the world, will lend your support.

Henoko Ōura Coastal Waters is supported by following organizations:
Dugong no Sato
Association to Protect the Northernmost Dugong
Dugong Network Okinawa
“No Heliport Base” Association of 10 Districts North of Futamai Society of No Base in Oura Bay/Residents of Villages North of Futami
The Conference Opposing Heliport Construction
Diving Team Rainbow-The Conference Opposing Heliport Construction
Association for Protection of Marine Communities (AMCo)
Save the Dugong Campaign Center (SDCC)
Okinawa Environmental Network
Ramsar Network Japan
Dugong Network Okinawa

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Photo by Osamu Makishi