Okinawa-report: At the brink of US Military Oceanocide

by Per-Erik Schulze, marine biologist, advisor Friends of the Earth Norway/Japan.

Oura Bay, Okinawa, just off the Cape Henoko, summer 2016. If the US military construction plans push ahead this will be last chance to see ocean life here.

Oura Bay, Okinawa, just off the Cape Henoko, summer 2016. If the US military construction plans push ahead this will be the last chance to see ocean life here.

Okinawa, the southern island of Japan is the site of one of the most heated environmental struggles on our ocean planet. Daily for more than a decade citizens have staged massive protest rallies, sit-ins and civil disobedience to protect their local bay against the looming threat of a land reclamation project so big it is difficult to comprehend. More than one million truckloads of sand and gravel is planned to be dumped into the bay for the construction of landing strips and docks for US military purposes, the plan originally conceived in the cold-war 60ies. 

Ourawan, Oura Bay, the deep coral-filled bay on the Pacific side of northern Okinawa’s main island is a real biodiversity hotspot, and has provided a variety of benefits to local people. In this rich natural environment, people have developed a variety of unique cultures and histories. In 2003 I visited Okinawa, both protesters and US Marines, reporting about this conflict for Norway’s major environmental magazine, Natur & Miljø. In the summer of 2016, knowing that the controversial construction project recently had been given a go by the japanese central government, and protests intensified, I travelled with japanese photographer Kimiko Kawamura back to Okinawa and Oura Bay. The purpose this time was to witness and bring out a glimpse of what might get lost;  more than 5000 species, several hundred of them rare or endangered, several living only here, and many still not even named. We went to the local divers. Les videre