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Yomitan Coastal Study

By: Kenny Ehman

Date Posted: 1999-03-20

The Yomitan Fisheries Commerce Division recently organized and sponsored a three day "Coastal Observation and Study Course" for its residents. The purpose of the course was to teach the general public about the coastal eco-system of Yomitan Village. Three guest speakers led the group on a tour of Yomitan's rivers and coastline. The course was divided into three separate areas of study: geology, plant life, and coral reefs. Participants began the first day by attending a lecture, which also included a slide presentation. Everyone then gathered again on the following two Sundays, February 28 and March 7, for excursions through Nagahama River, Nagahama Beach, Hija River, and Uza Beach.

Professor Eiji Nakada of Okinawa International University explained about the many trees and plants which support a variety of life along Okinawa's coast. Observers saw up-close both indigenous plant species and introduced species along the banks of Yomitan's rivers. The group hiked down Nagahama River, stopping at different areas to both search for and observe many of the different types of plant life which were discussed during the previous lecture. Many people claimed that they were not aware of the diversity of living creatures that could be found in such a small area.

The geology of Okinawa was covered in precise detail by Professor Fujio Uehara of Okinawa University. Uehara used the location of Nagahama Dam to show students the geological formations of Okinawa's main island. He also pointed out the different water levels that existed during the history of the Ryukyu Archipelago and the geological similarities with other Asian countries.

The final day included a boat trip up the Hija River and snorkeling at one of Yomitan's coral reefs. Kensuke Yokoi, a well known naturalist and underwater photographer, introduced everyone to the basics of marine biology, while giving participants the opportunity to observe coral reefs in their natural habitat. Observer's were able to witness the effect of "coral bleaching", a phenomena that occurred across the globe last year, turning many corals a ghostly white color. Snorkelers also saw the many kinds of fish Okinawa's coral reefs support.

For many of those in attendance the experience was very helpful in explaining about the many facets of Okinawa's abundant nature along the coastline. "I like to take students camping, but I am not always able to answer their questions about the environment. This course is giving me a good background about the nature on Okinawa," said one member.

Yomitan Village is planning to continue the course annually, and is hoping that it will be the first step in creating a coastal park ranger program. The rangers would be able to do patrols and also inform people about rules for protecting the coast, helping government officials to meet the growing need for such citizen involvement. The rangers would eventually be able to help conservationists with protecting sea turtles, measuring soil run-off, and ensuring the proper use of all coastal resources. Yoshichika Yamauchi of the Yomitan Fisheries Commerce Division explained, "This is a way for people to become more informed about the coastline and nature." Yamauchi has also been working closely with local schools and other environmental organizations in trying to increase environmental education for children.

"We started out first wanting to just clean up the beaches, but we then became more involved in trying to teach people about the importance of preserving nature," said Osamu Owan, who was one of the pioneer organizers of the "Yomitan Coastal Observation and Study Course."

Yamauchi and Owan hope that by working with residents at the local level more awareness can be created about many of Okinawa's environmental problems.

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