Ministry puts forward steps to save endangered sea grass

The Environment Ministry requested Friday that the Cabinet Office’s Okinawa Development and Promotion Bureau take proper measures to ensure that reclamation of the prefecture’s Awase tidal flats does not affect the preservation of endangered sea grass.

In the unusual move, the ministry outlined a number of steps the office should take, including penning and publicizing a plan for proceeding with the transplant of the sea grass. The science-based plan should include the transplant destination, area and method, ministry officials said.

“We have to make sure that those in charge of the (186-hectare reclamation) project obey the environmental measures recommended during the environmental assessment phase,” Environment Minister Shunichi Suzuki said.

The ministry also urged the office to take adequate time to carefully review plans to transplant the sea grass using heavy machinery and make sure that a critically endangered species of sea grass unique to Okinawa be successfully transplanted.

Suzuki said he hopes officials in charge at the Cabinet Office will keep the ministry informed of progress.

The ministry was kept in the dark about construction getting under way until officials in Okinawa Prefecture told the media about it Oct. 7.

The wetland, the largest in Japan’s southwestern islands, is also home to the Bearded Goby, a small mudskipper with a sharklike fin protruding from its back.

The secretariat of the Ramsar Wetlands Convention has written to the Japanese government expressing concern over the project, which it says is being carried out on an internationally important wetland.