Greenpeace Holds Protest to Save Japanese Dugong

Okinawa Governor Keiichi Inamine visited Washington this week, where he met with U.S. officials to discuss American military bases in Okinawa. Today Greenpeace held a protest at the Brookings Institution, where the governor was speaking. The international environmental group is opposing the relocation of a U.S. military air base to Okinawa's Henoko Bay, which threatens Japan's only remaining population of dugong. Greenpeace also expressed its concern over recent violent actions by the Japanese Coast Guard in Okinawa.

"While he is in D.C., Governor Inamine should be publicly demanding the cancellation of the Henoko air base plan," said Junichi Sato, Greenpeace's campaign director in Japan, who had travelled to Washington from Okinawa. "The waters of Henoko should be made a marine reserve, not an air base. To do this, we need strong leadership from the governor.

"The governor should also condemn the force and violence used by the construction crews and the Japanese Coast Guard to intimidate the peaceful protesters who oppose the base. He has the power to stop the drilling survey that these crews are conducting."

Today marks the 2,971 day of protest by residents in Okinawa who are trying to stop the proposed relocation of the Futenma air base to Henoko Bay's coral reef. Greenpeace staff and the ship Rainbow Warrior were in Okinawa for two weeks in March to support the protesters. However, once the Rainbow Warrior left on March 13, construction crews moved in under the protection of the Japanese Coast Guard. This morning, the Coast Guard forcibly removed a Greenpeace inflatable that was guarding the reef and one officer struck activist Yuka Ozaki in the face.

At today's demonstration, Mr. Sato presented the governor with a bottle of Okinawan sake called Awamori, which bears the image of a dugong on the label, while people held banners saying, "Governor Inamine, Save the Dugong in Okinawa, Stop the Air Base."

The Japanese dugong is an endangered marine mammal closely related to the Florida manatee. The Henoko air base would destroy the coral reef, habitat essential to the survival of the dugong and home to more than 1,000 other species of marine life.

"It is hypocritical for the United States to threaten an endangered animal such as the dugong in Japan, while it protects the dugong's close relative, the manatee," said John Passacantando, executive director of Greenpeace in the United States, who just returned from a visit to Okinawa. "Here in the United States, manatees are the focus of conservation and are truly protected. How can we justify driving their cousins to extinction in Japan?"

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