Environmentalists voiced concern Wednesday after a U.S. Marine Corps MV-22 Osprey aircraft ditched the previous day off Okinawa in waters inhabited by the endangered dugong.
The Osprey from the Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Ginowan crash-landed Tuesday evening in shallows off Camp Schwab, a Marine base in Nago located on the eastern coast of Okinawa Island.
At least three dugongs have been confirmed as inhabiting the waters off Okinawa’s main island, two of which often appear around the accident site, according to a survey by the Defense Ministry’s Okinawa Defense Bureau.
Shinichi Hanawa of a local environmental conservation network said the accident site has abundant seagrass that dugongs rely on for food.
“The accident could prevent dugongs from approaching there, causing them to be short of food,” said Hanawa.
The activists are also worried about the noise generated by Ospreys as dugongs are sensitive to sound. The U.S. military has deployed 24 MV-22s at the Futenma base.
Hideki Yoshikawa of the Save the Dugong Campaign Center said dugongs typically feed in coastal areas at night.
“It is necessary to study what kind of impact such night training would have,” said Yoshikawa.
Mariko Abe of the Nature Conservation Society of Japan echoed the concern, saying, “Military drills shouldn’t be conducted in (dugong) habitat areas.”
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