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Dead dugong found floating at Okinawa fishing port

A dugong is seen around Okinawa's main island in this file photo taken from a Mainichi Shimbun helicopter on March 28, 2010. (Mainichi/Koichiro Iwashita)

NAHA -- A dead dugong, a marine mammal designated by the central government as a natural monument, was found at a fishing port in Okinawa Prefecture on March 18, a local fisheries cooperative said.

It is highly likely that the dugong is one of only three that have been confirmed to inhabit the waters around Okinawa's main island. The prefectural government's natural conservation division is examining the cause of its death.

The dugong, which measured about 3 meters long, was found floating near a breakwater at the fishing port of Unten in Nakijin in the southernmost prefecture, according to the local fisheries cooperative. At around 5 p.m., a fisherman alerted the cooperative, and members of the organization recovered the body.

In Japan, dugongs have been confirmed to inhabit only the waters off Okinawa and they mainly feed on seaweed. An area off the Henoko district of Nago in the prefecture, where work to build a substitute facility for U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in the prefectural city of Ginowan is underway, is believed to be a feeding ground for dugongs.

Prior to the base relocation work, the Defense Ministry's Okinawa Defense Bureau surveyed the habitat of dugongs using helicopters and reported its findings to a panel of experts.

According to the bureau's report on Jan. 22, one of the three known dugongs inhabiting the waters around Okinawa's main island was located near Kouri Island near the fishing port on Jan. 8, 2019. Another has not been seen since July 2015 and the other has not been spotted since September last year.

(Japanese original by Takayasu Endo, Naha Bureau)

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