Tomoko Ichikawa, Communication Officer
Higashiyoka-higata (Higashiyoka tidal flat) in Saga Prefecture, Japan became the 124th Flyway Network Site on 5 May 2016. This 218 hectare mudflat is located on the north shore of the Ariake Sea, which has the largest remaining area of tidal flats in Japan. It regularly supports 1% of the flyway population of Saunders’s Gull, Black-faced Spoonbill, Lesser Sand Plover and Grey Plover, and also regularly hosts more than 10,000 migratory waterbirds. Higashiyoka-higata was also designated as a Ramsar Site a year ago. The area used to be called Daijugarami and is very famous as the migratory waterbird habitat that supports the largest number of shorebirds in Japan.
On 7 May, Takayuki Sugita, Principal Senior Coordinator for Nature Conservation, Ministry of the Environment, Japan delivered the Flyway Site Network certificate to Toshiyuki Hideshima, Mayor of Saga City, at the event to celebrate the one year anniversary of Ramsar designation. Around 1,000 local people participated in the event. EAAFP Secretariat staff participated in the ceremony and set up a booth for the World Migratory Bird Day poster exhibition and the “To Our Winged Travellers” participatory art project to raise awareness of the importance of the area for migratory waterbird conservation.
One of the local officers confessed that he and many of his friends did not appreciate the tidal flat when they were young. It was muddy and wasn’t the kind of white sandy beach where many people wish to go for holidays. However, after working for environmental conservation and seeing the site designated as both Ramsar and Flyway Network Site, now he sees the importance and the value of this muddy tidal flat. The fact that such international recognition can help local people become aware of the value of their resources, is one of the biggest benefits that a Flyway Network Site designation can bring to the local communities.