Locals Fight To Preserve One Of Japan's Last Untouched Beaches
"One of those very rare places in Japan"
Katoku Beach. Credit: Change.org
One of the last, untouched, picturesque beaches in Japan could soon be no more.
Katoku Beach, located on the sub-tropical island of Amami-Oshima in the Ryukyu archipelago, is the final natural hamlet on the Amami Islands with locals living behind the protection of a natural dune.
Because of the threat of massive tropical storms in Japan, authorities have erected concrete seawalls across most of the country and the government is planning to erect a 6.5m tall, 180m long seawall along Katoku.
But locals don't agree and are fighting for the beach to be left in its natural state. They say the concrete fixture would “displace the natural sand dune buffer causing severe erosion and eventually lead to the disappearance of the famous surfing beach”.
Association for the Conservation of Amami's Forests, Rivers and Coastal Ecosystems (ACAFRCE) and not-for-profit group Save The Waves have teamed up in fighting the seawall.
“Katoku is one of those very rare places in Japan where one can feel the unity of nature and the connection between mountains, rivers and ocean. This campaign goes beyond protecting another unique surf spot, it is about drawing a line in the sand and setting a new example for coastal conservation in Amami and Japan."
- ACAFRCE founder Jon Takaki said.
A Change.org petition warned that the seawall 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.”
And the Save The Waves Conservation Manager Trent Hodges wrote a letter to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) urging the organisation to pressure the Japanese government to reconsider the seawall idea.
“Hard armouring inevitably leads to coastal erosion and would interrupt the flow and movement of sand along Katoku beach, a process that is absolutely necessary for the surfing wave to continue to function, as well as the dune ecosystem that exists at the edge of the beach. Along those same lines, the Katoku river is the only free-flowing river in Amami-Oshima and a free-flowing river is essential for sand distribution along the beach and provides a natural buffer to the impacts of climate change and sea level rise,” Mr Hodges said.
He requested the UNESCO and the IUCN World Heritage Site consider the impacts of the seawall project before classifying Amami-Oshima as a World Heritage Site and encourage IUCN “to join us in requesting that the Kagoshima prefecture reject the project as designed.”
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