Media Advisory, December 10, 2014

Court Hearing, Press Conference Target U.S. Military Airstrip in
Japan Threatening Okinawa Dugongs

SAN FRANCISCO— A hearing in a historic lawsuit brought by American and Japanese conservation groups to halt construction of a controversial U.S. military airstrip in Okinawa, Japan will be held Thursday in U.S. District Court in San Francisco. The airstrip would pave over some of the last remaining habitat for endangered Okinawa dugongs, gentle marine mammals related to manatees.

The 1:30 p.m. hearing will be preceded by a press conference at 12:30 p.m. with plaintiffs, conservation groups and a delegation from Okinawa, Japan.

What: Press conference followed by a court hearing in case challenging U.S. military’s plans to build an airstrip that would destroy the last remaining habitat of the Okinawa dugong

Who: Press conference speakers will include Peter Galvin, cofounder of the Center for Biological Diversity; Hideki Yoshikawa, executive director of the Citizens Network for Biodiversity in Okinawa; Yoshikazu Makishi, a prominent Okinawan activist and architect; and Rev. Deborah Lee of Women for Genuine Security.

Where: U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, 450 Golden Gate Avenue, San Francisco, CA

When: 12:30 press conference followed by 1:30 court hearing

In July conservation groups filed a lawsuit, supplemental to a 2003 suit, seeking to require the U.S. Department of Defense to stop construction activities on the new U.S. Marine base airstrip at Henoko Bay until it conducts an in-depth analysis aimed at avoiding or mitigating harm the expansion will cause for the Okinawa dugong.

The Japanese Ministry of the Environment lists dugongs as “critically endangered,” and the animals are also on the U.S. endangered species list. In 1997 it was estimated that there might be as few as 50 Okinawa dugongs left in the world; more recent surveys have only been able to conclude that at least three dugongs remain in Okinawa.

Although the Defense Department acknowledges that this information is “not sufficient,” and despite the precariously low dugong population even under the most conservative estimates, the Defense Department has authorized construction of the new base.

The lawsuit was filed by Earthjustice on behalf of the U.S. organizations Center for Biological Diversity and Turtle Island Restoration Network; the Japanese organizations Japan Environmental Lawyers Federation and the Save the Dugong Foundation; and three Japanese individuals.

Read more at Center for Biological Diversity.