Ocean Trash Increases around Japan’s Senkaku Islands

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Uotsurijima Island is seen on Jan. 30 in Ishigaki, Okinawa Prefecture.

Trash in the ocean has increased from a year ago around the Senkaku Islands and surrounding sea areas, according to a survey conducted by the city of Ishigaki in Okinawa Prefecture.

The results of the survey, conducted at the end of January with the participation of Tokai University, have raised concerns about the impact of such waste on the islands’ ecosystem.

A report on the survey results is expected to be published soon.

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Researchers took the Shinsei Maru survey boat to marine areas around the Senkakus, about 170 kilometers northwest of Ishigakijima Island, and sailed around islands such as Uotsurijima, Kita-Kojima and Minami-Kojima. The researchers also flew a drone to take photos around Uotsurijima, the largest of the Senkaku Islands.

According to the report, 28 pieces of floating garbage were found in the waters between areas near Ishigakijima and off the coast of Uotsurijima, compared to nine pieces found in January 2022 during the first such survey.

The objects were mostly buoys, Styrofoam and plastic bottles.

Garbage that drifted to the northern shore of Uotsurijima also increased from last year. The island, home to about a dozen endemic species, including the Senkaku mole and Senkaku freshwater crab, is considered as a treasure house of nature.

“The garbage is feared to be damaging the ecosystem,” a city official said.

The drone survey showed aggravated damage to vegetation in Uotsurijima caused by goats. The report said that, compared to a year ago, vegetation on the southern slopes of the island has been further damaged and rock surfaces have been increasingly exposed.

“The survey results show the alarming situation in terms of the impact of garbage on the environment,” the report said.

Due in part to China’s aggressive maritime expansion, the Japanese government has adopted a policy against setting foot on the Senkaku Islands.

“There is a limit to what we can do from the sea in order to ascertain the status of drifting garbage and damage caused by goats, which are a heavy burden on the environment,” said Ishigaki Mayor Yoshitaka Nakayama. “We would like to strongly request the government to conduct a survey in the islands and take measures to protect the environment.”