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CAMP FOSTER — Leading international marine biologists and researchers will meet on Okinawa this weekend to share the latest studies on marine mammals, such as whales, dugongs and dolphins.

The international symposium at Bankoku Shinryokan, a conference facility in Nago, will be free and open to the public.

The programs begin at 9 a.m. both days. Lectures on Sunday are designed for the general public and are to begin at 1:30 p.m. Lectures throughout will have simultaneous English translations.

Okinawa is the northern limit of the habitat for dugongs, which are saltwater manatees, said Senzo Uchida, director of the Churaumi Aquarium at Ocean Expo Park. Ten years ago, a research group from his aquarium discovered a dugong about 3 feet 6 inches long, believed to be 2 months old, off the shore of Okinawa’s main island.

“That means Okinawa is a breeding ground for the mammal, although the number may be small,” he said.

Migration patterns of whales also will be discussed. Uchida said 300 individual humpback whales have been identified in Okinawan waters.

The symposium will also touch on how the lives of marine mammals are directly affected by human activities.

As an example, he cited the case of a spotted dolphin found stranded off of Naha Port several years ago. It died shortly after being transported to his aquarium.

“An autopsy found 28 plastic shopping bags in his stomach,” he said.

For more information, visit the aquarium’s Web site at www.kaiyouhaku.com/en/index.html.

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