Sunday, July 27, 2014

Marine biologist Dr. Katherine Muzik diving at the Sea of Henoko, the best (one of the few still living) coral reef in all of Okinawa & Japan

Katherine Muzik diving at the Sea of Henoko and Oura Bay, July 2013

10 years ago, 889 coral scientists from 83 countries, attending the 10th International Coral Reef Symposium in Okinawa, signed a resolution calling on the govs of Jp and the US to abandon their joint plan to construct a base at Henoko.

Coral reefs and lagoons used to be major source of cultural distinctiveness in traditional Okinawa, as in other South Pacific islands. Coral reefs are called the "rainforests of the sea" because they nourish a rich abundance of biodiversity. Worldwide, coral reefs only comprise 0.1% of the global ocean area, yet they contain a quarter of all marine species. Reef-building coral, fish, shellfish, sponges, and other marine life gather to create a unique ecosystem. They are of incomparable value for food and eco-tourism destinations.

Almost 400 types of coral form Okinawa’s reefs, which support more than 1,000 species of fish, marine mammals, including the beloved dugong, and hawksbill, loggerhead, and green sea turtles.

Erosion, landfill, and mass bleaching of coral has damaged much of Okinawa's coast. Over 90% of Japan's coral is in Okinawa; yet on Okinawa Island, the proportion of live coral is less than 5%. This is part of a global trend: coral reefs will become the first ecosystem that human activity will completely destroy by global warming, pollution, and landfill, in just a few decades.

The beautiful and vital Sea of Henoko and Oura Bay ecoregion is an exception to the trend of dying coral reefs in Okinawa and the world.

Katherine Muzik via JT on May 2, 2014:
Having lived in Okinawa and worked there as a marine biologist for 11 years, long ago (1981-1988) and more recently (2007-2011), I have dived the entire Ryukyu archipelago from Amami and Kikai in the north to Yonaguni in the south. I can therefore assure you there is no comparable reef ecosystem remaining such as the beautiful reef at Oura. It is indeed miraculous that it is still surviving. Aki samiyo (“Oh my goodness!” in Okinawan)! There is no disease nor bleaching there! It has so far avoided the troubles that continue to plague and destroy coral reefs worldwide, whether in the Pacific or the Caribbean. (I am sure that you are quite painfully aware that reefs all over the world are dying, thus making any coral reef alive anywhere a truly sacred place.)

Oura Bay is a unique and spectacular ecosystem, including mangroves, a river, a sandy beach with crabs, numerous patch reefs in shallow water (where my specialty, blue corals and red sea fans, thrive), not to mention threatened dugongs and all of the species of clownfish in Japan, shallow beds of sea grasses beyond count, and, most amazingly, a very spectacular deeper reef, nicknamed the “Coral Museum,” with countless gorgeous corals...

Crushing these beautiful and quintessential corals just must not, cannot happen...

Last July, I returned to Okinawa from here in Kauai at the request of the Okinawan Environmental Network. I was asked to dive at Oura Bay and to lend my support to its protection. During my visit I met with the mayor of Nago, who is valiantly opposed to construction/destruction at Oura...

I am deeply honored to have met him [the Emperor] and the Empress several times at their palace during the time I lived in Okinawa. He is a marine biologist too, and since his goby fishes often find their home on the branches of “my” octocorals, I collected some for him to study...

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