National / Science & Health

With a population under a dozen, Okinawa dugongs labeled 'critically endangered' by IUCN

JIJI

The International Union for Conservation of Nature has updated its Red List of Threatened Species, moving the dugong that dwell in waters off Okinawa Prefecture to the critically endangered category and putting it a step away from extinction.

The organization warned that the number of dugongs off Okinawa has fallen to 10 or less and is in decline. The critically endangered category is the highest among the IUCN’s five categories, reflecting a high degree of extinction risk.

The IUCN also cited the threat to the marine mammal posed by construction work related to the relocation of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma. Under a controversial plan, the base is set to be relocated to the Henoko coastal area in Nago in Okinawa from its current site in Ginowan in the island prefecture.

“The loss and damage to these seagrass beds (near the construction site) is likely to be a serious impediment to the recovery of the dugong population in Okinawa,” it said. The construction project involves landfill work off Henoko.

Investigations by the Defense Ministry’s Okinawa bureau had previously confirmed three dugongs near the main island of Okinawa. But one of them was found dead in March this year, while the other two have not been seen since September 2018.

The dugong is also designated as a critically endangered species in the Environment Ministry’s Red List.

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