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The Defense Facilities Administration Agency will conduct an aerial survey in Okinawa later this month of the habitat of the dugong, an endangered sea mammal found in waters near the planned construction site of a U.S. Marines heliport, agency officials said Tuesday.

The agency will conduct the survey in response to a request from Tateo Kishimoto, mayor of Nago, the proposed location of the new heliport.

It will submit the results of the survey to a government panel that is dealing with the controversial construction plan, which comprises the relevant ministers, the governor of Okinawa, the mayor of Nago and the mayors of a number of nearby municipalities, they said.

Researchers will conduct an aerial survey of water off Okinawa’s entire main island to pinpoint the presence of any dugongs. They will also subject several areas which are believed to be habitats of the animal to closer examinations.

Divers will also collect seaweed samples from a number of areas to see if dugongs eat them.

Environmentalists have been protesting against the construction plan, claiming it will threaten the habitat of the endangered animal. Dugongs have been spotted in the waters of Okinawa by researchers and the media.

Night-flight protest

YOKOHAMA (Kyodo) Kanagawa Gov. Hiroshi Okazaki met Tuesday with Rear Adm. Robert Chaplin, commander of the U.S. Navy in Japan, to protest night-landing drills conducted by Navy aircraft at the Atsugi base in September, prefectural government officials said.

In the meeting at the Yokosuka base, Okazaki also requested that the location of night-landing practices be switched to Iwojima, 1,500 km south of Tokyo.

The Kanagawa Prefectural Government has issued written protests to the U.S. forces over night drills at the Atsugi naval base, which is located near residential areas in the prefecture, the officials aid.

In September, the drills took place on two occasions. They generated “the most terrible level (of noise) in the past 10 years,” resulting in more than 700 complaints being filed with the prefectural government, as well as with the cities of Ayase and Yamato, the officials said.

In September, Yamato city suspended “friendship ties” with the U.S. Navy in protest.

On several occasions, Okazaki has expressed his intention to communicate to the U.S. forces that local residents can no longer tolerate the noise.

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