An international symposium entitled The Japanese Murrelet and Biodiversity in Kaminoseki was held in Hiroshima on April 10. Influenced by the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster resulting from the earthquake off the Pacific coast of northeastern Japan on March 11, 2011, this symposium was at one time under threat of cancellation. However, the organizer, the Association for the Preservation of Nagashimas Nature, enthusiastically convinced that this was exactly the time to send a resounding NO to nuclear power plants, was able to organize the symposium successfully. More than 300 people gathered and listened to the presentations with keen interest.
Ten presenters appeared at the symposium, of whom four were from overseas. The presenters included Harry R. Carter, seabird researcher from Canada; Darrell L. Whitworth, wildlife researcher from the U.S.; Karen Reyna, resource protection coordinator from the U.S.; Nils Warnock, National Audubon Society Alaska Office, U.S.; Yutaka Nakamura, University of Miyazaki, Japan; and Tomohiko Iida, Kyushu University, Japan. These murrelet and shorebird experts from Japan and North America gave presentations on such topics as research on the breeding of these birds and their biological characteristics, as well as the development of new research methods and implementation of political measures for their protection.
Murrelets are decreasing in population, and face many problems, including capture by fishermen, harm from nonnative species such as mice, oil spills, chemical pollution of the marine environment, and climate change. The Japanese murrelet is designated as vulnerable on the Japanese Ministry of Environments Red List. Its worldwide population is five thousand, most of whom live in Japan. Since the Japanese murrelet spends almost all of its lifetime over water, the biological characteristics of the bird were previously unknown except during its breeding period, the only time it spends on land. It is also a small bird (24 cm in overall length), making it difficult to find. However, research by groups such as the Association for the Preservation of Nagashimas Nature, the Ecological Society of Japan, and the Ornithological Society of Japan found that the Japanese murrelet lives in the Seto Inland Sea, including around Kaminoseki, all year round, and research was begun to clarify its biological characteristics, such as brooding period, molting period, courtship behavior, and distinction between adult and young birds. The possibility that the Japanese murrelet breeds in this area was pointed out, and the importance of taking protection measures was confirmed.
Regarding the Kaminoseki Nuclear Power Plant project (two 1,380 MW ABWRs), the Governor of Yamaguchi Prefecture, Sekinari Nii, granted land reclamation permission to Chugoku Electric Power Company based on the Public Waters Reclamation Law in October 2008, and reclamation work is ongoing in Tanoura Cove, the proposed site of the plant. Chugoku Electric Power Co., Inc. submitted an application for a reactor establishment license to the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency in December 2009, and the application is currently undergoing a safety review. After the occurrence of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, Kaminoseki Mayor Kashiwabara and Yamaguchi Governor Nii requested the company to exercise greater prudence concerning the project. The response of Chugoku Electric to this request is paradoxical. The company temporarily stopped reclamation work on March 15, while continuing on-site work for additional geological research, such as research pit boring, to pass the safety review. The legal system that allows land reclamation before the grant of permission for reactor establishment is problematic, Governor Nii said on March 25, indicating a flaw in the current system while laying aside his own responsibility for granting the reclamation permission. Local residents groups, such as the People of Iwaishimas Association against the Kaminoseki Nuclear Station, plan to intensify their efforts to stop all construction and research work immediately and to bring the entire Kaminoseki Power Plant project to an irrevocable end.
Masako Sawai (CNIC)