Target: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe
Goal: Stop the construction of air base that will destroy habitat for critically endangered dugongs.
Large, gentle marine mammals known as dugongs are in grave danger due to a controversial project in the island prefecture of Okinawa, Japan. Despite vehement opposition from Okinawan people, local government officials, and scientists across the globe, the U.S. and Japanese governments are proceeding with plans to build a new U.S. military air base in Henoko Bay, destroying some of the last remaining dugong habitat in the process.
Dugongs hold a special significance for the people of Okinawa, who oppose the military development by a whopping 80 percent. These shy, mysterious creatures are the center of creation mythology and folklore, and their cultural significance protects them under Japanese law. These unique and isolated Okinawa dugongs are critically endangered, with estimates of only 30 to 50 animals left.
This project does not just threaten dugongs. Vibrant reefs hosting thousands of species such as turtles, rays, and clown fish are at risk as well. Henoko Bay alone boasts a staggering 262 endangered species. The impressive biodiversity of the region has earned it the nickname of “the Galapagos of the east,” yet it’s estimated over half the area’s original reefs have disappeared as a result of pollution and climate change. Construction of the proposed military base will require dredging and dumping that will destroy the remaining reefs and the sea grass beds dugongs rely on.
To make matters worse, the resulting operation of such a base will likely drive what few creatures remain from the waters with noise, light pollution and contamination. The governor of Okinawa has revoked a permit for the base but drilling surveys continue in the area. Sign the petition below to urge the prime minister of Japan to listen to the pleas of the Okinawan people and stop this ecological disaster from occurring.
Dear Prime Minister Abe,
I am socked the Japanese and U.S. governments have chosen to move forward with the air base project in Henoko Bay. The United States already has an overwhelming military presence in Okinawa. Sixty-two percent of U.S. bases in Japan are located on the prefecture, despite it only being 0.6 percent of the total land mass of Japan.
The construction of the new base is not just excessive, it’s also a death sentence to many of the creatures that call Henoko Bay home. The most prominent of these is the Okinawa dugong, which has profound cultural significance to locals. Dugongs, large marine mammals similar to manatees, are critically endangered and rely on the sea grass in Henoko bay for food and shelter. The construction of the air base will destroy these sea grass beds through dredging and dumping, as well as introduce pollution and sedimentation into the water that will threaten reefs and hundreds of other endangered species.
The governor of Okinawa, along with 80 percent of the island’s citizens, vehemently opposes this project. Some protesters have even gone as far as to put their bodies in the path of drilling surveys. Please listen to the desperate pleas of the Okinawan people and put a stop to this selfish and short-sighted project.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: Julien Willem