Japan refuses Greenpeace ship permission to investigate dugong habitat destruction

Press release - 5 November, 2015
Naha, 5 November 2015 - Japanese authorities refused permits for Greenpeace’s ship, the Rainbow Warrior, to join activists protesting against the construction of airstrips for a US military base in Oura Bay, Okinawa - a rich ecosystem that is home to the very rare Japanese dugong.

“Japan says it is committed to peace and democracy, but the Japanese government’s total failure to resolve the situation in Oura Bay is a brazen attack on the democratic wishes of Okinawans,” said Junichi Sato, Executive Director of Greenpeace Japan.

“Building a new military airstrip on the habitat of the last few dugongs is symbolic of military power bulldozing over local and natural values.”

Greenpeace Japan also released fresh evidence from underwater investigations revealing extensive dugong feeding troughs in seagrass beds just 3km from Oura Bay; while around the exclusion zone, large concrete blocks had flattened coral reefs . The bay itself is home to 5,300 species, 262 of which are endangered, including the loggerhead turtle, clown fish, and the Japanese dugong. It is also home to the largest seagrass bed in Okinawa, on which the dugong feed.

“If these rare feeding troughs can be located just a couple of kilometres from Oura Bay, then one can only imagine how critical the seagrass bed near the military base is to the dugong’s existence. The bay’s rich ecosystem risks collapse unless the government immediately halts construction, and establishes a marine reserve to protect Okinawa’s natural heritage,” said Kazue Komatsubara.

Okinawans bear the brunt of the US military presence in Japan, and have been protesting for the past 19 years. Currently, 80% of locals are against the construction of the base in Oura Bay, and the local governor, who was elected on a wave of opposition to the base, has attempted to block the construction through an appeals process.

However, his efforts to stop the construction have been overruled by the central Japanese government, sparking heated protests at the gate of the military base with locals - many of them elderly - putting their bodies in the lines of the bulldozers.

“In 2005 and 2007, Greenpeace’s ships were given permission to go to Oura Bay. It appears that this time, the Central government is deliberately slowing down this process in order to prevent us from standing with locals and bearing witness to the destruction of the bay,” said Captain Mike Fincken of the Rainbow Warrior.

Greenpeace Japan began the process to acquire permission to visit Henoko/Oura Bay, to the Okinawa General Bureau on 28 October but authorities yesterday refused permission. While Greenpeace Japan prepares paperwork to challenge the decision, it is expecting the authorities to decide soon on another application to sail to Nago. The Rainbow Warrior is in Okinawa on the invitation of local politicians and activists and has been in dock in Naha, the capital of Okinawa, since 1 November.

Notes to editors:

Photos of the underwater investigation, military base protests and Greenpeace ship, here.

Video of the underwater investigation and military base protests, here.

Media contacts:

Komatsubara Kazue, Oceans Campaigner, Greenpeace Japan, tel: 080-3002-5502 email:

Akiko Tsuchiya, Communications Officer, Greenpeace Japan, tel: 080-3930-3342 email:

Greenpeace International Press Desk, , phone: +31 (0) 20 718 2470 (available 24 hours)