Ishigaki city conducts marine investigation around Senkaku Islands

Courtesy of the Ishigaki marine investigation team
A China Coast Guard vessel, center, is seen between Japan Coast Guard patrol vessels near Uotsuri Island on Monday.

The municipal government of Ishigaki in Okinawa Prefecture has conducted a marine investigation around the Senkaku Islands to collect data for environmental conservation.

Conducted on Monday, it was believed to be the first full-scale survey by an administrative organization since the one conducted by the Tokyo metropolitan government in 2012, just before the islands were nationalized.

Two vessels of the China Coast Guard intruded into Japan’s territorial waters and approached the investigation ship on Monday, but there was no contact or other accidents.

A team of about 25 people, including Ishigaki Mayor Yoshitaka Nakayama and marine policy experts, left Ishigaki Port on Sunday night aboard Tokai University’s Bosei Maru research and training vessel. For about three hours starting around 7 a.m. Monday, the team collected seawater and examined drifting garbage near Uotsuri Island and Kitakojima and Minamikojima islands. They did not land on the islands.

The city notified the Japan Coast Guard prior to the vessel’s departure.

Regarding Uotsuri Island, which is said to have suffered damage from feeding by goats, “There is less greenery compared to 10 years ago,” said Tokai University Prof. Yoshihiko Yamada, a member of the team.

According to the 11th Regional Coast Guard Headquarters in Naha, two China Coast Guard vessels intruded into Japan’s territorial waters off Minamikojima island and other areas, running alongside the Bosei Maru. Japan Coast Guard patrol boats got in between the Bosei Maru and the Chinese boats, warning them to leave Japan’s waters.

There were eight Japan Coast Guard boats to keep the Chinese vessels away from the Bosei Maru, Nakayama said.

Tuesday marked the one-year anniversary of the enactment of China’s Coast Guard Law.

“The China Coast Guard’s activities are a violation of international laws and cannot be tolerated,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said at a press conference on Monday. “We will do everything we can to monitor areas around Senkaku Islands.”