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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

Dugongs are mammals that live in tropical and sub-tropical warm waters.

In 1890, the Ministry of Agriculture and Commerce reported that “dugongs in Amami and southward are not rare.” According to Okinawa Prefecture’s statistics, more than 300 dugongs were said to have been caught as a result of dugong hunting between 1894 and 1916. Furthermore, during the postwar period when Japan suffered from food shortages, dugongs were caught using handmade dynamite created from the gunpowder of unexploded bombs. In recent years, the number of dugongs has been decreasing, having lost their feeding ground of seaweed beds due to coastal reclamation and the inflow of red soil.

Ironically, a thorough research on the dugongs was conducted by noneother than the Okinawa Defense Bureau – an environmental assessment was carried out for the construction of the replacement facility of the Futenma base.

The Okinawa Defense Bureau presumed that there were three dugongs living in Okinawa. It named each dugong A, B and C, following their moving range as well as estimating their habitat and population. The bureau also looked into the use of the seaweed beds, the dugongs’ feeding ground, and examined whether or not the construction of the new base had any impact on the dugongs.

It looks like the footage I obtained was filmed when the Okinawa Defense Bureau conducted the environmental assessment because it completely matches the still image attached to the environmental impact report submitted to the Okinawa prefectural government in 2011.

The footage shows that it was filmed on Feb.22, 2009 at around 7 a.m. However, only a still image was attached to the environmental impact report. The footage showing the dugong swimming leisurely and the abundance of the Okinawa waters has been sealed from the public.

拡大The still image used in the Okinawa Defense Bureau’s environmental assessment report (right) and part of the footage obtained by Ryukyu Asahi Broadcasting (left), match perfectly. (Ryukyu Asahi Broadcasting)

His name is “Individual A”