Rare shellfish could affect plans for Okinawa air station
April 19, 2003
HENOKO, Okinawa — The location for a planned new Marine Corps air station, in northeast Okinawa waters, is also home to seven types of rare shellfish, a private environmental group has announced.
Anti-base activists said the discoveries buttress their campaign to stop construction of the base, to be built offshore and connected to the Marines’ Camp Schwab.
Several rare species of shellfish have been found off Henoko’s coast, according to recently released findings by researchers with the Natural History Museum and Institute in Japan’s Chiba Prefecture.
“Some were known to be found in the Philippines and New Guinea but had never been found in Japanese waters before,” said Taiji Kurozumi, who led a research team that studied the area last year between January and August.
The research was funded by the Nature Conservation Society of Japan, a nongovernment organization.
The seven shellfish found off Henoko’s coast each were about four-tenths of an inch long, Kurozumi said.
“Finding those seashells in the waters means that the area is rich in life,” Kurozumi said. “The Henoko waters, surrounded by coral reefs, abound with marine life.
“It is home to indigenous oyster and turban shells which are found nowhere else in the world,” he said
The planned airport is to replace the Marine Corps Air Station at Futenma, in Okinawa’s crowded central corridor.
Environmentalists also complain the new facility will destroy seaweed beds housing a small family of dugongs, commonly called sea cows, a type of saltwater manatee.
The Henoko area, a rural fishing community, was chosen for the new air station as a result of a 1996 U.S.-Japan agreement to reduce by 21 percent the land U.S. military bases occupy on Okinawa. U.S. bases cover about one-fifth of the island.
The plan called for relocating MCAS Futenma — which, in turn, prompted Kurozumi’s study.
“We felt that we had to know first what is actually there, rather than waiting for an environmental assessment to be made by the national government,” he said.
In a related matter, the Nago City Council Monday rapped the Defense Facilities Administration Naha Bureau for slow disclosure of a preconstruction survey involving drilling to determine if the coral bed could bear the planned airport’s weight.
The geological survey includes deep drilling at 63 points. In a meeting with the council last week, DFAB officials didn’t mention the survey — which was announced publicly three hours later.
Council members said failing to inform them first was a sign of disrespect.
In an emergency session Monday, the council voted to protest that the DFAB was drilling without properly notifying the town or the Japanese Environmental Agency.
Takumi Okazaki, director of the Naha DFAB, assured council members that in conducting the survey, his agency would consult with the environmental agency and experts in the field.