Hai Sai! Welcome to my Blog.

Hello, my name is Tom Corrao and I am the blogger behind the Okinawaology Blog. I created this blog to share and discuss all things Okinawan. I’m also the Public Relations Officer and Minkan Taishi to the Chicago Okinawa Kenjinkai. My experience with Okinawa is derived from the time I spent there during the 1980's and 90's (10 years) when serving in the United States Air Force. I've also been married to an Okinawan woman for 30 years now and have been immersed in many things Okinawan through both friends and family. I do not claim to be all knowing about everything Okinawan but I try hard and study the history and culture. I welcome everyone that is interested in Okinawa and hope that I can provide useful information to those uchinanchu that may be curious about their culture and heritage. I also welcome those who are not of Okinawan heritage but have experienced, or are experiencing, the islands culture while stationed there with the United States Military. Comments are welcomed and will be published as long as they are in good taste and on track with the purpose of this blog. My hope with this blog is to bring Uchinanchu people around the world a little closer to their cultural roots by expressing information that has started to fade in light of a more modern world. We should never forget our culture or the people who came before us and through the Blog my intentions are to meld the old with the new and implant knowledge that will help maintain the traditions and culture of an island people.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Okinawa's Endangered Dugong

Did you know that the tropical ocean waters of Okinawa are home to a creature called the dugong? What you don't know what a dougong is? Well the dugong is a large marine mammal which, together with manatees, is one of four living species of the order Sirenia. (Not the goth band but the creature.) The dugong is the only living representative of this once-diverse family Dugongidae and its closest modern relative the Steller's Sea Cow, which was hunted to extinction during the 18th century.

It is also the only sirenian in its range, which spans the waters of at least 37 countries throughout the Indo-Pacific including Okinawa. The dugong is the only strictly-marine herbivorous mammal, as all other species of the manatee utilize fresh water to some degree and the dugong stays primarily in the ocean.

The dugong is easily distinguished from the manatees by its fluked, dolphin-like tail. It also possesses a unique skull and teeth. The dugong is heavily dependent on seagrasses for subsistence and is thus restricted to the coastal habitats where they grow. The largest dugong concentrations are typically found in wide, shallow, protected areas such as bays, mangrove channels and the lee sides of large inshore islands. Its snout is sharply downturned, an adaptation which has occurred for grazing and uprooting benthic seagrasses.

The dugong has been hunted culturally for thousands of years for its meat and oil.  The dugong's current populations are close to extinction and the dugong is listed as a species vulnerable to extinction and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species limits or bans the trade of derived products based on the greatly reduced population involved. Despite being legally protected in many countries throughout their range, the main causes of population decline remain anthropogenic and include hunting, habitat degradation, and fishing-related fatalities. With its long lifespan of 70 years or more, and slow rate of reproduction, the dugong is especially vulnerable to these types of exploitation.

Beside hunting, the seagrass beds which the dugong depend on for their primary food source are threatened by eutrophication caused by agricultural and industrial runoff. Due to their shallow-water feeding habits, dugong are also frequently injured or killed by collisions with motorized water vessels. Because of their large size, they have few predators so we can logically say the man is the primary reason for their declining numbers.


I Okinawa the U.S. and Japanese governments have been collaborating to build a new military base on a coral reef close to Henoko, near Nago, Okinawa. This plan has generated strong protests from Okinawans who are concerned that the local marine environment, as well as the home of the dugong, would be ruined. Greenpeace has stepped up its campaign protesting the Okinawa base expansion since 2007 and the dugong is the primary reason.

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