Preserving Loggerhead Turtle Spawning Beaches (Japan)

Toyota Motor Corporation (TMC)

Outline

Omotehama, a beach that runs along the Atsumi Peninsular in Aichi Prefecture, is a well-known spawning site for loggerhead turtles. However, the beach's ecosystem is in jeopardy as a result of growing coastal erosion caused by a decrease in the volume of earth and sand deposited by the Tenryu River. Accordingly, since April 2011, employees from Toyota's nearby Tahara Plant and their families have been helping two local NPOs, Omotehama Network and Akabane Juku, make and set up erosion-prevention hedges to protect the beach. They also clean the beach and start preparations for welcoming the loggerhead turtles to lay their eggs.

Map of Omotehama beach

Map of Omotehama beach

Background

The ecology of loggerhead turtles

According to the Sea Turtle Association of Japan, loggerhead turtles that live in the northern Pacific Ocean only nest on beaches that face the same ocean in the Japanese archipelago. Therefore, these turtles will become extinct unless Japan acts to protect them. The Enshunada coast, which includes Omotehama, is the largest spawning site for loggerhead turtles on the Japanese main island of Honshu. Ometehama is blessed with long stretches of sand reaching down to the water, a range of beautiful green hills, and other natural features that make this beach the perfect place for loggerhead turtles to lay their eggs.

Freshly - hatched baby turtles heading out into the open sea

Erosion of sandy beaches

Although loggerhead turtles are absolutely dependant on sandy beaches to lay their eggs, these beaches are under threat throughout Japan. Omotehama is exposed to the same erosion that affects similar beaches across Japan. In the case of Omotehama, dams built upstream of the Tenryu River have reduced the amount of earth and sand deposited on the beach, leading to a serious increase in coastal erosion.

Flow of sand from the sea

Flow of sand from the sea

Flow of sand and earth from the mountains

Flow of sand and earth from the mountains

Creating turtle-friendly beaches

Activities to preserve sandy beaches using natural forces such as the wind are referred to as beach nourishment or sand replenishment. Omotehama is a center for the creation of erosion-prevention hedges, an activity that has been carried out along the Japanese coastline for many years. These hedges are often made from a type of bamboo called medake. They act by trapping sand carried by seasonal winds to create localized sand dunes. The hedges also weaken the strength of the wind, making sand less susceptible to being blown away, allowing coastal plants to flourish. The spread of these plants stabilizes the dunes and create suitable nesting grounds for loggerhead turtles.

Toyota's Volunteer Activities

In April 2011, Toyota began a regular volunteer activity for employees and their families to help make erosion-prevention hedges in cooperation with two NPOs that are involved nourishing the beaches along the Omotehama coastline, Omotehama Network and Akabane Juku. This activity was held for a third time in March 2013 and attracted about 150 volunteers, mainly employees from the nearby Tahara Plant and their families. After listening to a talk about the ecology of loggerhead turtles and the preservation of sandy beaches from Mr. Yuji Tanaka, the Chief Director of Omotehama Network, the volunteers worked together to build 15 erosion-prevention hedges using bamboo and other materials. These were part of the efforts toward welcoming the arrival of loggerhead turtles from May to lay their eggs.

1. Building erosion-prevention hedges

Hedges help to build strong sandy beaches.

Hedges help to build strong sandy beaches.

Hedges prevent the wind from blowing away the sand.

Hedges prevent the wind from blowing away the sand.

After a few months, this much sand has built up.

After a few months, this much sand has built up.

2. Beach cleaning

This is an activity that is popular with parents who volunteer with their children. We have combined beach cleaning with fun activities such as a bingo-type game using flotsam and jetsam washed up on the beach, shells and so on, to create an experience that is both worthwhile and enjoyable.

Parents and children picking up garbage on the beach.

Parents and children picking up garbage on the beach.

Beach cleaning in action

3. Turtle observation group

In the spawning season in August, volunteers have the opportunity to see the turtles at first hand. They can check the effectiveness of the erosion-prevention hedges and observe the nesting sites and footprints of the loggerhead turtles. The volunteers can also watch artificially incubated turtles heading for the sea, helping them to truly sense the importance of their activities and ecological preservation.

Interaction with loggerhead turtle

Interaction with loggerhead turtle

Watching turtles heading for the sea

Popular Coastline Preservation Volunteer Activity

First volunteer activity at Tahara focused on the sea

“Our plant is located in Tahara city, which is famous throughout Japan as a spawning site for loggerhead turtles, and we wanted to do something to contribute to the local community. This is the first time that we've used the sea as the location for one of our volunteer activities. It's the ideal location for children and other family members to participate as well, which has been difficult with other activities in the past. We hope it increases the awareness of our employees about local social issues.”

[Taketo Ito, Volunteer Activity Coordinator at the Tahara Plant of Toyota Motor Corporation]

Simple erosion-prevention hedge building

“Today our beaches face many pressing problems. Restoring at least part of the beaches for the turtles is our goal with this project. Although the erosion-prevention hedges are not a permanent solution, it is important to do what we can for the beaches using our own hands. In that sense, it is a valuable activity.”

[Yuji Tanaka, Chief Director of Omotehama Network (NPO)]

Increasing environmental awareness of children

"The kids don't usually think about the environment so I wanted to use this activity to teach them how important our oceans are. It's a good opportunity for the children to grow."

[Volunteer family members]

Loggerhead Turtle Spawning Beaches Preservation Project

Watch Video: (3min 57sec)

Related contents
/sustainability/corporate_citizenship/society_and_culture/