9 August 21
One of the last unaltered and pristine beaches and waves in all of Japan is under threat from a destructive seawall project.
On the sub-tropical island of Amami-Oshima in southern Japan (Kagoshima prefecture), far from prying eyes, lays one of the most beautiful, remote and natural beaches left in all of Japan. This beautiful place named Katoku is so breath-taking visitors who experience its pristine river mouth, its lush tropical valley and soft sandy beach are left with a lasting impression.
Nicknamed the "Jurassic Beach of Amami'', Katoku beach is the only place in Japan where a giant Leatherback sea turtle was sighted on a beach and photographed laying eggs (Western Pacific Subpopulation of Leatherbacks classified as Critically Endangered).
Pristine fresh water from the lush tropical valley flows into the ocean forming the most sandy beach in all of the Ryukyu islands, enabling near extinct species of crabs, fish (Ryukyu Ayu) and shrimps to thrive. Katoku could be said to be the only place where the integrity and unity of forests, rivers, beach and ocean can be experienced and felt in Amami-Oshima. According to visitors, such places no longer exist in Japan. Indeed, Katoku is the last beach hamlet free of concrete seawalls and river-mouth embankments in all of Amami-Oshima, and probably the last of its kind in Japan.
Since Oct 2015, Katoku has been threatened by a humongous seawall project (180m long, 6.5m tall) that would see its beautiful natural dune disappear under massive amounts of concrete and quarry material, and its beach destroyed. This project would decimate/kill the thousands of hermit crabs and crabs living on the dune, remove the Pandanus trees residents and volunteers have planted from 2015 to 2021, and cover in concrete the sea turtles preferred nesting area. Coastal engineering experts have predicted that the beach could disappear once this seawall is built. Many other pocket beaches in Amami-Oshima have already suffered this fate.
Thanks to the absence of man-made structures such as seawalls and river-mouth embankments, Katoku beach is blessed with a smooth and gentle slope all the way from its water's edge to the top of the dune. These are ideal conditions for families and kids, nature lovers and beginner surfers looking for a hazard free, safe and beautiful scenic spot. The construction of this seawall would transform the beach into a dangerous construction site for several years. If completed, the safest sand-only beach in Amami-Oshima would lose this unique attribute, as the beach would shrink considerably and cause wave surges to hit the wall violently and make its usage unsafe for everybody. This wouldn't be the first time a once beautiful beach loved by everyone in Amami-Oshima is transformed into a horrendous concrete enclave that no one can enjoy let alone recognise.
* A pending lawsuit,
* 31K petition signatories,
* Multiple reports and requests by scholars demanding the conservation of Katoku beach and its unique biodiversity,
* Independent assessments by leading coastal engineering experts warning that a seawall is unnecessary and would cause massive beach erosion and put the village at risk,
* Half of Katoku village residents requesting that the seawall project be stopped.
* The inscription of Katoku beach and lower Katoku river into the World Natural Heritage buffer zone
Kagoshima prefecture has ignored the voices and concerns of the residents, people and experts alike. As of March 19th 2019, it has forged ahead with its plan to bury in concrete the last natural beach hamlet in Amami-Oshima. Construction of the seawall building blocks has started on multiple construction sites along the Katoku river, levelling rich habitats for endangered amphibians and reptiles, right in the preferred area for the Amami Black Rabbit, a national treasure and living fossil extinct outside Amami.
As of Jul 26th, 2021, the island of Amami-Oshima has been officially registered as a World Natural Heritage site by the IUCN and UNESCO World Heritage committee. It was recognised for its exceptional biodiversity, however, only rainforest properties were nominated and registered as World Natural Heritage sites. The coastline, estuaries and the world class coral reefs were excluded from the World Natural Heritage nominated areas.
Despite the exclusion of the coastline from the World Natural Heritage site, the IUCN recognised the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the lower Katoku river and Katoku beach by inscribing them in the World Natural Heritage buffer zone. The IUCN also recognised Katoku river as the last free-flowing river in Amami-Oshima.
Unique Archeological Site
If there's one coastal area in Amami-Oshima that deserves to be inscribed as a World Natural Heritage site, and protected for generations to come, Katoku beach, its lush tropical valley and pristine river-mouth are first class candidates! Katoku could also qualify as a World Heritage cultural site due to being one of the very last beach hamlet with no seawall, and the first village in Amami-Oshima where Jōmon era artefacts dating back 3000 to 6000 years ago were accidentally discovered buried in the dunes during an illegal sand dredging/extraction operation in 1973.
Only one scientific excavation project was conducted since 1973, when "Katoku style pottery" became a reference for archeological research in the Ryukyu. The significance of Katoku as a Jomon era archeological site has been buried and ignored by the prefecture and the local government, and the official sign-post informing the public about the Katoku archeological sites has conveniently disappeared around 2014 and never been replaced.
While the unauthorised and wild extraction of natural resources like sand were rampant in the 60s and 70s, and archaeological sites were destroyed with no supervision, today, 50 years later in 2021, Kagoshima prefecture is allowing the same careless mistakes to be repeated again, with the full knowledge that the Katoku dune is an archeological site, right at this junction in time when Katoku beach and its dune have been inscribed in the World Natural Heritage buffer zone.
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF YOUR SIGNATURE
Your signature can make a difference between the obliteration of Katoku and saving this magical place. In view of the World Natural Heritage registration, international pressure is as important as ever. The more eyes are on the Jurassic Beach of Amami and the greater the international awareness about Katoku grows, the more chance we have to preserve this unique natural treasure. Please share this petition with all your nature loving friends so we may keep Kagoshima prefecture and the Japanese government accountable to its pledge to protect Amami-Oshima's exceptional natural environment and biodiversity.
For more information, pictures and videos of Katoku visit:
Documentary "A Line in The Sand": http://film.katoku.org