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Japanese Coast Guard gives awards, "Year of the Ocean" underway

By: Kenny Ehman

Date Posted: 1998-07-30

Hundreds of people gathered at the Tomarin Kariyushi Resort in Naha to take part in an awards ceremony in conjunction with Ocean Day (Umi no hi) The awards were presented to individuals, groups and corporations for their specific contributions to ocean recreation, safety, and protection.

Among the many recipients were Akira Miyagi, a transportation specialist for the Military Sea Lift Command on Okinawa. Miyagi, who is a Japanese national, has worked for the United States Military here on Okinawa for over thirty five years. Twenty of those years have been spent at Naha Military Port, where Miyagi coordinates the movement of ships in and out of Okinawa's ports. He also acts as a coordinator between the Japanese Coast Guard and the United States Military, making sure that all procedures are carried out safely.

Miyagi's service and dedication to his job earned him the award presented by the Japanese Coast Guard. "I don't know if I deserve it. I just did my job, and I am happy they recognized my work," said Miyagi. Also in attendance with Miyagi were Commander Anthony A. Vraa and Captain Richard Weyrick of the United States Navy. Both officers expressed their delight over the award presentation, and at having been invited to attend.

The Japanese Coast Guard also presented the Okinawa International Clean Beach Club (OICBC) with an award for their beach cleanup activities over the last several years. The group has also participated in Ocean Day since its inception, coordinating their cleanup activities with the Ocean Day Planning Committee.

On hand to accept the award for the OICBC was president and co-founder, Edo Heinrich-Sanchez. "We're happy that the organizers of Ocean Day and the Japanese Coast Guard recognized us for our efforts up until now, and for awarding us during the Year of the Ocean," said Sanchez. "We thank all the U.S. Military participation, and hope that this year the bases will go all out, since it is the Year of the Ocean."

Sanchez was referring to the OICBC's annual "Okinawa Cleanup Yuimaru", which occurs every September around the island. Last year's event drew over 2,700 volunteers, cleaning up 27 of Okinawa's beaches. Under the direction of Captain Bret Curtis of the United States Marines, the cleanup saw a huge increase in the amount of participation from the men and women stationed here on Okinawa.

As part of the many "Year of the Ocean" initiatives, the OICBC is trying to collect signatures for the "Ocean Charter", which is a personal promise to take better care of the world's oceans. The charter is currently being signed throughout the world by both government officials and individuals. Here on Okinawa, the charter was specially designed with the art work of local artist Bokunen Naka, who also designed the commemorative stamp for the International Global Warming Conference in Kyoto last year. Sanchez mentioned that anyone with internet access can register their name on the Ocean Charter by logging on to: http://ioc.unesco.org/iyo/activities/charter_signup.htm. He also said to make sure to register Okinawa as the location from where the charter is being signed. If you would like more information please call 964-2517.

The OICBC is now getting ready for this year's "Okinawa Cleanup Yuimaru", which will take place on September 20. They recently released their Cleanup Report for 1997, which is a compilation of all the data collected from last year's cleanup. The event is part of the Center for Marine Conservation's "International Coastal Cleanup".

All those interested in actually coordinating a cleanup on their own, at a location of their choice, are asked to attend a meeting at OICBC's office, located inside the Maeda Youth Hostel on Tuesday, August 4 at 7:30 pm. Those interested in simply volunteering can show up on the day of the cleanup at one of the many locations around the island. Some of the scheduled cleanup sites include Senaga Island, Sunabe sea wall, and Cape Maeda. Other locations will be announced. For more information call 965-5371.

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