Kerama Islands to become 31st national park

Kyodo

Environment Minister Nobuteru Ishihara said he will designate Okinawa’s Kerama Islands, known for their coral reefs, as Japan’s 31st national park on March 5.

The announcement came Tuesday after the Central Environment Council approved a plan to designate the islands and surrounding waters up to 7 km from shore as a national park and submitted it to Ishihara.

It is the first designation since 1987, when the Kushiro Marshland in Hokkaido became a national park.

The Kerama Islands, consisting of roughly 30 islets located around 40 km west of Naha, are known for their clear waters and diverse coral reefs.

The ministry will also designate surrounding waters shallower than 30 meters as a marine park and strictly restrict development within them, such as the extraction of sand. It also plans to build coral restoration facilities to counter the damage done by the predatory crown-of-thorns starfish.

March 5 is known as Coral Day in Okinawa, a play on the Japanese word for coral, “sango,” the syllables of which sound like the words for three and five.