Isahaya Bay: Sometimes Local Activists (And Fishermen) Win


Over 50 years ago, Japan's government was busy planning dams and creating the society we are used to today. Sometimes, people have refused to go along with the plans. One such project is Isahaya Bay in Saga Prefecture, near Nagasaki in the south western part of this country.

Fish, seaweed, clams, migrating birds, nature in harmony with an age-old rural lifestyle - - or government-sponsored farms behind concrete dams? People love nature here, but sometimes government officials in their offices have other priorities, and all the resources to steamroll the projects, in spite of protests from local residents. However!

On June 27, 2008, activists and fishermen won an important victory in Saga Prefecture court, as it ruled in favour of the plaintiffs. The court said the government must keep the dike gates open for at least five years to allow the bay to regain its original environment and provide sufficient time for a thorough investigation. Remarkable!

The local court even castigated the ministry for its stance, noting that Tokyo is guilty of "obstruction of evidence." The court's position is that if the ministry wishes to assert that damage to the fishing industry has nothing to do with the reclamation project, then the burden of proof lies with the ministry. More details below the fold.


Asahi Shimbun notes in an editorial that the reservoir water is incredibly murky:

The ministry had promised to abide by environmental standards for agricultural water before the construction project was finished. It poured funds into the project to improve the reservoir's water quality. Even though the construction work is complete and farming operations have begun, it remains unclear when the water quality will sufficiently improve to meet environmental standards.

The ministry should abandon the idea of using the reservoir as the main source of irrigation for water so as not to further drain tax money. It would then become necessary to acquire another water source. Citizens groups already offered several tangible suggestions on alternative water sources.

WWF Japan has done monitoring tours on Saunders Gulls and Shorebirds around the shore of Isahaya Bay and Ariake Sea in Kyushu on a number of occasions. WWF explains how their bird-watching project has been paying attention to how Japan lives up to its obligations under the UN Ramsar Wetland Convention, and I am impressed how they have raised public awareness of the importance of the issues involved.


Isahaya Bay is a small but important part of Ariake Sea. The bay was brutally closed by a 7 km seawall constructed by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fishery on 14 April 1997. What used to be one of the largest and richest staging site of migratory birds with an incredible amount of organisms like molluscs and fishes, was thus turned into farmland. The amount of dead shellfish that came out months after the closing was beyond the imagination of any specialists working on the sites, according to WWF Japan. Congratulations...

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