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Secret footage: dugong swimming in Henoko

The sea surrounding Okinawa is to be reclaimed to build a U.S. military base

Natsuko Shimabukuro Reporter for Ryukyu Asahi Broadcasting

Secret footage obtained by Ryukyu Asahi Broadcasting shows a dugong swimming with a sea turtle in the waters near Okinawa's Henoko, where construction toward reclaiming the land to build a U.S. military base has begun.

This is the English translation of an article that first came out on WEBRONZA on Sept. 26.

Translation: Masami Ito

More heartwarming than beautiful

As I nervously pressed the play button, there it was – a dugong, designated by the Japanese government as a natural monument. It slowly appeared from the left side of the screen, its large body swaying from side to side.

It is said that the dugong inspired the legend of mermaids. However, the way it swam leisurely in the ocean was more heartwarming than beautiful. The dugong even had a sea turtle swimming next to it.

This is top-secret footage that I collected through my own reporting. It had been held from the public eye for a long time and I was eager to show it to the world. When I saw the animal floating about in the ocean with a sea turtle, however, my eagerness abated.

The water surrounding Okinawa is the world’s northernmost habitat for dugong. Only three have been confirmed to be living there now. There have been images of the dugong poking its head out of the water taken from aircrafts, but there has never been such a clear footage of the dugong swimming naturally underwater, until now.

The ocean where the dugongs live is facing uncertainty due to the construction for reclaiming land for the so-called new Henoko base to replace the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma.

According to the plan, about 160 hectares of the sea will be reclaimed, pouring 21 million cubic meters of soil and sand into the area. Once the massive base – which features two 1800-meter runways and a military port function - is completed, it is said that the base will also be equipped with 100 Ospreys.

The future of Okinawa and its surrounding waters is changing significantly.

The footage I obtained was indeed of the dugong swimming in the ocean around the Henoko area.

The footage was taken for the Okinawa Defense Bureau’s environmental assessment

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