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Conservationists fight to protect Okinawa dugong

Date Posted: 2008-10-16

Six Non-Government Organization conservation groups are in Barcelona, Spain, joining forces with the International Union Conservation of Nature in a new effort to protect Okinawa dugong they say are now endangered.

Japan Natural Conservation Union, the Worldwide Conservation Fund Japan and the Dugong Conservation Campaign Center are at the forefront of the meetings in Spain, teaming with the IUCN to discuss fighting environmental assessments that could lead to construction of a new American airbase in northern Okinawa. They’re urging both Japan and the U.S. to modify the assessment that would permit construction of a new airfield at Camp Schwab in the Henoko District of Nago City. A pair of V-shape runways under the plan would extend into Oura Bay, disturbing the habitat for the dugong.

The Japanese government has signaled disapproval of the NGO plan, because an agreement would bring a halt to construction for the new airfield, which is supposed to replace Futenma Marine Corps Air Station by 2014. IUCN officials criticize the Japanese government for its refusal to put its decision in writing, and is calling for compromise by Japanese leaders.

The IUCN says it will keep on pressing for a change, and will solicit support from all countries. The dugong is a natural monument animal, they point out, and must be protected. The conservationists argue it would be dangerous to the dugong and harmful to its habitat if the runways were built. IUCN is calling for the construction to be scrapped, and a new environmental assessment to protect the dugong be done.

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