Research on marine organisms
Okinawa Churashima Foundation Research Institute (OCFRI) undertakes research pertaining to the tropical marine life around Okinawa. By doing so we are able to contribute to maintaining the natural environment and its sustainable use. Also, by cooperating with Churaumi Aquarium along with domestic and foreign research institutes we are conducting reproductive and biological research to help preserve rare species in captivity. Our staff have high levels of expertise in socially important areas of research in particular reef-building corals, sea turtles, marine mammals and fishes.
The ecosystems of the coral reefs are very important for tourism and fishery resources in Okinawa, and the preservation of them is a matter of considerable urgency to our generation. One of our purposes at the Okinawa Churashima Foundation is to preserve the ecosystems of these coral reefs. In 1988, we started to survey corals in the areas near Motobu Town, and since 1998 we have conducted monitoring surveys. Currently our purpose of this study is preserving the ecosystem of coral reefs, whilst conducting surveys on seaweeds and marine plants. Also with cooperation of the aquarium we are establishing nurturing techniques for reef-building corals and conduct research into their growth, reproduction and the types of diseases affecting reef-building corals.
Our purpose is to understand the population status of sea turtles around Okinawa Island.
We are conducting genetic and migration research along with confirming egg laying and identifying bycatch turtles (those caught unintentionally by fishermen) and those that are stranded ashore. We cooperate with the NPO Sea Turtles Association of Japan and with volunteers who are working on the island of Okinawa. We are researching into areas regarding captive sea turtles including techniques for their development and reproduction. This has included research into artificial insemination of protected species such as the critically endangered hawksbill turtles.
In order to understand the nature of cetaceans in the Southwest Islands we have begun collecting specimens and surveying the whales that were accidentally caught or stranded.
Studies are conducted into their reproductive ecology along with individual identification surveys and migration surveys so that we can better understand the population status of whales, in particular the humpback whales that migrate to the waters around Okinawa and Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins that are found near Amami-Oshima Islands.
At the same time as understanding the fish fauna in the Southwest Islands, research is undertaken into methods of biodiversity conservation. Our research to understand the ichthyofauna across Okinawa prefecture is being conducted by analyzing environmental DNA has received attention in recent years. Also research is conducted concerning the living conditions and effect of releasing Ryukyu-ayu fish (Altivelis ryukyuensis) and coconut crabs.
At the research institute the marine mammals and ichthyofauna gathered by the foundation are not the only specimens, we also host the Yoshino Fish Collection that was replaced from the University of the Ryukyus and includes more than 50,000 preserved specimens. For more information on our fish collections please click here.
Early efforts into the long-term nurturing of the large Elasmobranchs like whale sharks and mantas are taking place at the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium and the achievements are highly acclaimed both domestically and overseas. We had the world’s first successful captive reproduction of a manta ray in 2006. We are continuing to aim for successful captive reproduction of whale sharks. The research institute is conducting endocrinological studies, dissections, and histological studies to gain reproductive and physiological knowledge from captive breeding at the aquarium.
For the purpose of new technological development, research and studies are conducted with the cooperation of the Motobu Fishery Corporative Association to promote the bonito fishing industry that is a specialty of Motobu Town.
At the research institute we are cooperating with domestic and foreign research institutions, and conduct various joint research projects. We also host international symposiums promoting academic exchange and international collaboration.
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