The World's Coral Reefs are in Danger!
We are Working to Have
the Shiraho Coral Reef
Designated as a World Heritage Site!
- Coral Reefs Face Numerous Threats
- Japan's Last Ocean Paradise-Shiraho
- An Airport Plan Threatens a Unique Coral Habitat
- Shiraho Coral Reef to be a World Heritage Site
- Make the Japanese Government Hear Your Voice
- The World Cultural and Natural Heritage
Coral Reefs Face Numerous Threats
At the International Coral Reef Symposium held in Guam in June 1992, Dr.Clive Wilkinson of the Australian Institute of Marine Science warned
that "the prominent coral reefs of the world are now in danger." As proof, Australian underwater photographer Ben Cropp, who has been observing and recording the world's coral reefs for the past 40 years, gave evidence in a Japanese television documentary about the crisis facing the world's coral reefs, "In the last 15 years, 70 to 100% of the coral in various parts of the world have died. Coral genocide by humans is taking place all over the world."
Other authorities affirm their views. Dr.Jeremy Regget,Science Director of Greenpeace International, expressed his concern in a recent report. He said that the rising surface temperature of the sea caused by the greenhouse effect is causing the unprecedented coral blaching that has been observed in the Caribbean Sea, French Polynesia, the Andaman Sea and elsewhere around the world. If this warming continues, he warned, the world's coral reefs face environmental devastation.
Okinawa prefecture, sometimes called the "Galapagos of the Orient," is a chain of sub-tropical coral reef islands located at the southwest end of the Japanese archipelago. It is a habitat for a large number of indigenous flora and fauna that are found nowhere else in the world-and the ocean surrounding the islands is no different. However, the coral reef here is said to be 95% dead because of the severe outbreak of crown of thorns starfish, and red soil runoff caused by excessive development after Okinawa was returned to Japan in 1972.
Japan's Last Ocean Paradise - Shiraho
Coral reefs resemble tropical rainforests in their biodiversity and concentrations of plant and animal life. Among the reefs of the world, Shiraho is especially important. An area in the sea 10km by 1km adjacent to Sho is especially important. An area in the sea 10km by 1km adjacent to Shiraho on Ishigaki Island in Okinawa supports an amazing 50 genera and 120 species of coral. This is more than two-thirds the number found on the Great Barrier Reef of Australia, a reef ecosystem about 2,000km long. Most critically, it contains a large community of blue coral that is more than 1,000 years old. In addition, the reef supports other species of coral such as giant cylindrical coral (micro-atolls of Porites sp.) 6m in diameter and 3m high, and the beautiful plant-like leaf coral (Montipora foliosa). This reef is thriving. Colorful sub-tropical fish dart in and out of the underwater forest in the last ocean paradise left in Japan, and one of a dwindling number left in the world.
An Airport Plan Threatens a Unique Coral Habitat
This priceless ecosystem is threatened. In 1979, Okinawa prefecture announced plans to build a new airport by landfilling Shiraho. Since then, increasingly urgent calls have been heard both within Japan and throughout the world to protect the Shiraho Coral Reef.
In 1987, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) on its own initiative conducted a scientific survey of the reef. Their report praised it as, "A particulary outstanding example of a rich coral reef with many natural features of scientific importance, including some of the largest and oldest stands of blue coral (Heliopora coerulea) ever identified in the northern hemisphere." In their general meetings of 1988 and 1990, they passed a resolution calling on the Japanese authorities to reconsider the plan to build an airport in the area.
The president of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) ,the Duke of Edinburgh, made an inspection trip to the area in March 1992 and afterwards strongly voiced the necessity of conservation, saying Shiraho is a coral treasure house of worldwide importance.
The rising tide of citizens, scholars,celebrities and conservation organizations, both inside and outside Japan, finally halted the plan to landfill the Shiraho reef in November 1992. Despite this growing momentum to save the reef, it remains in danger.
When the landfill plan was withdrawn, it was decided that the airport would be built on land. Though clearly more attractive than the original plan, soil erosion from construction still poses significant danger to the reef. Equally worrisome are the continued calls to revive the landfill plan amongst the people of Ishigaki Island and the Okinawa Prefectural Assembly. The reef's future remains uncertain.
Shiraho Coral Reef to be a World Heritage Site
We propose that the Shiraho area should be declared a World Heritage Site under the UN's Convention for the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage* to protect its coral reef from the threat of development and to preserve it for future generations. We have organized this campaign in the conviction that Shiraho is a heritage that belongs to the world to be preserved forever under international supervision as one of the planet's priceless treasures.
At the Japan America New Economic Conference held in May of last year, the governments of Japan and the United States agreed that the conservation of coral reefs should be an area of "cooperation from a global standpoint," confirming that both governments will be a force in protecting the world's coral reefs from further destruction. Their determination was demonstrated by their decision to organize an inernational conference this May 29 - June 2 in the Philippines to decide on plans for carrying out conservation work. Nevertheless, the Japanese government has so far shown more concern for supporters of development in the area than for requests to protect the Shiraho Coral Reef. With this advertisement we hope to encourage international public opinion to support the movement to designate the Shiraho Coral Reef as a World Heritage Site. In the past, the Japanese government has been more responsive to international criticism than domestic public opinion and is more likely to change direction with pressure from outside.
Make the Japanese Government Hear Your Voice
Despite its postwar economic success, Japan's ability to cope with environmental problems remains undeveloped. If the Japanese government can be persuaded to take a positive stance on Shiraho, it will not only solve an environmental problem, but will be an important step in making Japanese policy truly sensitive to environmental concerns. Directing the power of Japan's economy and technology towards the growing threats to the global environment could have a powerful positive impact on the world. Make your voice heard by writing the government of Japan and urging it to forever preserve the Shiraho Coral Reef as a World Heritage Site.
Please write to:
Prime Minister Junichirou Koizumi
2-3-1 Nagata-cho, Chiyoda-ku,Tokyo 100 Japan
The World Cultural and Natural Heritage
"The treaty concerning the protection of sites of world cultural and natural importance. It is intended to preserve the planet's natural and cultural heritage as treasures of universal value. The Great Barrier Reef, the Galapagos Islands, and Yosemite National Park are among the 440 that have been registered so far.