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What killed the clams

Date Posted: 2003-07-05

A dispute over what is causing the death of oysters at a cultivation farm off Kitamae is heating up between the local Fishermen's Association and Okinawa Prefecture officials. Members of the Fishermen's Association maintain that the land reclamation project for the Ginowan water purification facility is to blame. Officials at the Prefecture Land Development Bureau say that several contributing factors are at work.

The dispute started in April when the Fishermen's Association members noticed that all oysters in their farm had died. Every single shell at the farm had a hole in it and a special film designed to protect the clams was broken. They also found that chains that connect buoys on the surface to weights on the bottom, and from which the clam colonies are suspended, were broken and lying on the bottom.

The Prefecture Land Development Bureau conducted an investigation and the results were published on June 30. According to the findings, no conclusive evidence could be found that pollution from the construction site was the cause of the damage. It concluded that the water quality in the area was the same before, during and after the construction.

Specifically, investigators concluded that floating mud particles from the construction site were not the reason that the protective films broke. "We concluded that the films were broken because they were rubbed against corals on the bottom in the area. Another likely factor is fluctuation in the water temperature. Red tide was observed in the area, and that was not caused by the water purification plant construction," an investigator said.

Chatan Fishermen's Association Chairman Moriyasu Zakimi disagrees. "I don't think prefecture investigators got it right. To begin with, they conducted their investigation after the construction had already stopped. I am absolutely sure that our oysters died because of mudflow from the landfill. The prefecture should pay us for damages," Zakimi insists.

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