In a recent decision, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has opened the doorway for protecting the Okinawan dugong by affirming that Turtle Island Restoration Network and our Japanese and U.S. partners have the right to sue to compel the U.S. to  consider the impacts of a new U.S. military base in Okinawa, Japan.

“Paving coral reefs for a military airbase runway does not make us safer, but more vulnerable to planetary extinction. The Okinawa dugong, sea turtles, coral reefs and the ocean environment are the winners today in this 14-year litigation battle with Department of Defense,” said Todd Steiner, executive director of Turtle Island Restoration Network.

Dugongs are relatives of manatees but they have a fluked tail like that of a whale.

At issue is that the U.S. government is planning to build a military airstrip atop a healthy coral reef in Okinawa, Japan, that will likely destroy the diverse array of marine life the reef supports, including dugongs, sea turtles and at least nine animal species threatened with extinction.

More than a decade ago, Turtle Island Restoration Network  joined with environmental groups on both sides of the Pacific Ocean in a lawsuit in federal district court in San Francisco against the U.S. Department of Defense to stop the airstrip.