Japan is a bow-shaped archipelago of over 6000 islands of volcanic origin with a broad range of climatic zones (sub-arctic to sub-tropical) and ecotypes. The strings of islands making up the Izu, Iwo and Ogasawara Island chains extend over 1000km south into the Pacific Ocean. Japan's oceanic islands support important breeding colonies of seabirds, including the red-listed endemic Japanese Murrelet (VU), endemic breeding Short-tailed Albatross (VU), Laysan Albatross (VU),Black-footed Albatross (EN), Tristram's Storm-petrel (NT) and Streaked Shearwater (regional endemic). The Japanese Murrelet (VU) is subject to an on-going conservation programme established by the Wild Bird Society of Japan (WBSJ). Surveys show that the Birojima Islets (of Miyazaki prefecture) and the Izu Islands (Honshu) host the largest concentrations of the species, with the greatest breeding density found in the Izu Islands (WBSJ, 2012). Rat eradications are in progress on the Bonin Islands and Fukuoka (Kyushu) in response to the local extirpation of some species (Yabe et al., 2009; Kawakami, 2008).Translocation and hand-rearing of Short-tailed Albatross (VU) chicks from the volcanically-unstable island of Torishima to the historical breeding site of Mukijima is part of an on-going project (Suryan, 2010), although recent genetic studies suggest that the two existing breeding areas for the albatross (Torishima and the Senkaku Islands) may be host to two distinct species (Eda et al, 2012). Streaked Shearwater (LC) have been tracked (with more tracking planned) from five breeding sites around Japan, showing that the sea south of Hokkaido and the area between Hokkaido and Kyushu are important feeding areas for breeders. Those tracked during the non-breeding season mostly travelled to the areas around New Guinea, the South China Sea and the Philippines. Trial deployment of geo-locators has been carried out on Rhinoceros Auklet (LC) and Black-tailed Gull (LC). Amongst the candidate marine IBAs in Japan are Kii-nagashima (within the Mie prefecture), the Ogasawara Shoto Islands and the Nansei Shoto Islands. A national marine IBA workshop was held in 2010 to identify a candidate list of marine IBAs, select target species, and finalize timelines. Trial marine IBAs are planned for the seaward extension around breeding colonies of Japanese Murrelet and Roseate Tern, pelagic hotspots of Streaked Shearwater, and the non-breeding concentrations or migration hotspots for Short-tailed Shearwater and Crested Auklet. Limited data for the Long-billed Murrelet, Thick-billed Murre and Black-tailed Gull probably make these species unsuitable for inclusion at this stage.
Key current and past threats to Japanese seabirds include:
o human settlement leading to disturbance and habitat loss
o past egg harvesting
o past bombing practice on Sanbondake (Onoharajima)
o predation by introduced mammalian and native (crow, falcon, snake) predators
o recreational surf fishing at remote islands
o volcanic eruptions leading to denuded habitat and direct mortality
o commercial gill net fisheries
o indirect effects of climatic change through changing prey availability
o Surveys for Chinese Crested Tern in Okinawa
o Determining areas where off-shore wind farms may have a negative impact on seabirds
o Identifying the non-breeding distribution of Japanese Murrelet
o Determining IBAs from Streaked Shearwater tracking data
o Potential collaboration with Russia and the USA on marine IBA descriptions, and conservation of North Pacific species of Murrelet
o Fostering international collaboration for identification of marine IBAs (especially Streaked Shearwater breeding in Japan and wintering in the Arafura Sea).
Government's support/relevant policy
A poster of draft Japanese marine IBAs was presented at CBD COP10 in Nagoya Oct 2010. Currently in Japan many seabird colonies are protected, but feeding and migration areas are not protected. Protection of these areas needs to be considered in future. For example, Onohara Island off the coast of Mijakejima (holding one of the largest breeding colonies of Japanese Murrelet) is protected as a national park under Japanese law. However Japanese Murrelet is not a qualifying species at the moment and its near colony feeding areas are not included within the park. In addition, fisheries and boats are by law allowed in the area, raising concern amongst conservationists. Please see policy tab for list of agreements that this country is party to.
Petrels and shearwaters
Gulls and terns
Ducks, geese and swans
IUCN Red List Status
The numbers in brackets refer to the country's rank when compared to other countries and territories globally.
BirdLife International (2010). 1st Asian Marine IBA Workshop Report. Held 14-16 April 2010, JICA Chikyu-hiroba, Tokyo, Japan. BirdLife International internal report.
Carter, H.R., Ono, K., Fries, J.N., et al. (2002) Status and conservation of the Japanese Murrelet (Synthliboramphus wumizusume) in the Izu Islands, Japan. J. Yamashina Inst. Ornithol. 33: 61-87
Chiba, H., Kwakami, K., Suzuki, H. and Horikoshi, K. (2007) The distribution of seabirds in the Bonin Islands, southern Japan. J. Yamashima Inst. Ornithol. 39: 1-17
Eda, M., Koike, H., Kuro-o, M., Mihara, S., Hasegawa, H. and Higuchi, H. (2012) Inferring the ancient population structure of the vulnerable albatross Pheobastria albatrus; combining ancient DNA, stable isotope, and morphometric analyses of archaeological samples. Cons. Gen. 13: 143-151
Ito, M., Minami, H., Tanaka, Y. and Watanuki, Y. 2009. Seasonal and inter-annual oceanographic changes induce diet switching in a piscivorous seabird. Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser. 393: 273-284
Kawakami, K. and Okochi, I. eds. (2010) Restoring the Oceanic Island Ecosystem: Impact and Management of Invasive Alien Species in the Bonin Islands. Tokyo: Springer ISBN: 977-4-431-53858-5
Kawakami, K. 2008. Threats to indigenous biota from introduced species on the Bonin Islands, southern Japan. Journal of Disaster Research 13: 174
BirdLife International (2022) Country profile: Japan. Available from http://datazone.birdlife.org/country/japan. Downloaded: 2022-12-07