Page Top
Link to main body
main body

Press Release

Inscription Proposal of Shiretoko to World Heritage List Decided

January 16, 2004

The Government decided to nominate Shiretoko to be inscribed on the World Heritage List. Ministry of the Environment, Forestry Agency and Agency for Cultural Affairs have been setting forward the essential procedures for the inscription on the World Heritage List of Shiretoko based on the World Heritage Convention.


Name of country:   JAPAN

List drawn up by:

Ministry of the Environment
1-2-2 Kasumigaseki, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo,
100-8975, JAPAN
Forestry Agency
1-2-1 Kasumigaseki, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo,
100-8952, JAPAN

Date:   15 January 2004


Geographic Location:4409'00"N,14511'54"E
Shiretoko is located in the Shiretoko Peninsula, which is in the northeastern tip of Hokkaido Island. The peninsula faces the Sea of Okhotsk and the Nemuro Strait.


A group of volcanoes (Shiretoko mountain range) higher than 1,500 meters above sea level runs along the center of the peninsula including the highest peak of Mt. Rausu (altitude 1,661m).

Shiretoko is situated within the Udvardy's "Manchu-Japan mixed forest" biogeographic province. Various types of virgin vegetation cover from the coastline to the mountain peaks 1,600 meters high. Further, the complex topography and the differences in weather conditions between the east and west sides of the Shiretoko Peninsula create a variety of habitats, and as a result, Shiretoko contains a diverse fauna and flora.

Seasonal sea ice features Shiretoko which lies at the lowest latitude among the world's seasonal sea ice areas. Blooms of ice algae and other phytoplankton occur earlier in spring as ice melts than other sea ice areas. The blooms of phytoplankton bring abundant zooplankton. Many fishes such as salmons and cod feed upon the abundant planktons and, in turn, become an important food source for the terrestrial ecosystem. The animals feed on these fishes include birds of international importance such as Blakiston's fish-owl, Steller's sea eagle and white-tailed eagle as well as brown bears, the density of which is among the highest in the world.


Shiretoko is an outstanding example of an integrated ecosystem displaying the interrelationship between a terrestrial ecosystem and a contiguous marine ecosystem with unique seasonal sea ice characteristics. Shiretoko maintains pristine forests in the terrestrial ecosystem while its marine ecosystem is greatly diverse and rich.

The sea ice is the origin of the dynamic link between the ecosystems of the sea, rivers and forests. It also provides unique winter habitat for birds and marine mammals as well as splendid scenery.

Shiretoko has wide variety of habitats for many animal and plant species. Especially, Shiretoko is an important breeding or wintering site for globally threatened bird species such as Blakiston's fish-owl, Steller's sea eagle and white-tailed eagle. Shiretoko also has outstanding natural beauty with its landscape and seascape changing dramatically with the four seasons.

Criteria met:

Natural Criterion(ii):   Shiretoko represents an interactive ecosystem that consists of bountiful sea and forests that are linked by rivers. The nutrients supplied by the sea ice results in blooms of phytoplankton which are the base of a dynamic food chain that integrates the ecosystems of the sea, rivers and forests. Shiretoko is an outstanding example that represents the mechanism and importance of such integrated ecosystems.

Natural Criterion(iii):   Shiretoko has outstanding natural beauty with its landscape and seascape changing dramatically with the four seasons. Especially, the sea ice scenery is always changing in winter, and the diverse forests cover the area with beautiful colors in autumn. Shiretoko also has superlative natural phenomena, like the volcanic peak of Mt. Iou which is world renowned for erupting large amounts of highly pure molten sulfur.

Natural Criterion(iv):   Shiretoko has a unique combination and distribution of species due to its geographical location and diverse natural environment, and southern and northern species co-exist. As a result, it has diverse fauna and flora. In addition, Shiretoko is an important habitat for globally threatened birds, such as the Blakiston's fish-owl, Steller's sea eagle and the white-tailed eagle. Shiretoko contains the most important and significant natural habitats for maintaining the most diverse fauna and flora characteristic of the maritime North Pacific.

Assurances of authenticity or integrity:

Shiretoko contains all the ecosystems; a highly productive and diverse marine ecosystem characterized by seasonal sea ice, a river ecosystem which connects the sea and forests, and a terrestrial ecosystem centered on diverse pristine forests. Each of these ecosystems is an essential element to represents the mechanism and importance of such integrated ecosystems. All of these ecosystems are protected and of sufficient size to ensure the long-term conservation.

Shiretoko has adequate long-term protection through domestic legislation covering Wilderness Area, National Park, Forest Ecosystem Reserve and so on. To facilitate co-ordination among multiple management agencies, a regional liaison committee was established, and an integrated management plan for Shiretoko was formulated.

Comparison with other similar properties:

Among World Natural Heritage sites on the list at similar latitudes as Shiretoko, five sites contain both forests and coasts are used for comparative analysis. These are two sites in Russia - Sikhote-Alin and the Volcanoes of Kamchatka, two sites in North America (Redwood National Park and Kluane / Wrangell-St Elias / Glacier Bay / Tatshenshini-Alsek) and one site in Oceania (Te Wahipounamu - South-West New Zealand).

The above five sites are all lack of ecosystem affected by seasonal sea ice, and different from Shiretoko in biota. Although Shiretoko is smaller in scale compared to the other listed sites, the diversity of the species is comparable or superior to other sites and there is no other World Heritage site having equivalent value as Shiretoko.

Note:    Government of Japan submitted the dossiers of inscription nomination of Shiretoro to the World Heritage Centre on Jan.30, 2004. Shiretoko will be considered for inscription on the World Heritage List of outstanding natural site during the 29th session of the World Heritage Committee in July 2005.

Page Top