Environmental justice, Blue Growth and the Japanese fisheries law reform

Vortrag
Sitzungstermin
Mittwoch (20. September 2023), 09:00–10:30
Sitzungsraum
HZ 3
Autor*innen
Sonja Ganseforth (Universität Leipzig)
Kurz­be­schreib­ung
In Japanese coastal fisheries, marine ressources are traditionally co-managed in local cooperatives, but a recent reform is threatening to undermine this by inviting corporate capital investments into coastal areas and introducing more top-down, quota- and private-property-based resource management. Fishers therefore face multiple insecurities of a volatile changing environment and climate, shifting fish stocks, and resource pressures, and the risks of dispossession and disempowerment in shifting resource governance regimes.

Abstract

For the first time in 70 years, the Japanese Parliament passed a reform of the Fishery Law in December 2018. Until this date, Japanese coastal fisheries have constituted a rather rare case of comprehensive co-management of fishery resources in an industrialized country. The 2018 bill aims to introduce more scientific, to-down regulation and resource management as well as to revitalize domestic fisheries by inviting new actors into this declining sector. Hailed by some politicians and conservationists as a historic chance to introduce better resource management and revitalize fisheries, critics condemn the reform as undermining one of the last resorts of common resource management, selling out the oceans, and potentially ringing in the end of small-scale fisheries in Japan. Tracing how different concepts and ideas of sustainability and (sea)food production are being renegotiated domestically and internationally, this contribution sheds light on the historical role of cooperatives in coastal fisheries in Japan and the challenges and transformations they are facing today, and the implications of ecological and socio-economic crises as well as the recent reform structural changes in the food systems might have for small-scale fisheries in the future.

Drawing on ethnographic field research and a nation-wide survey among Japanese small-scale fishers, the contribution analyzes how fishers evaluate their current situation and ongoing changes in the marine and political environment and climate. The findings indicate a strong feeling of crisis and insecurity about the current situation among coastal fishers struggling with high input costs and low producer prices. There is also a remarkable awareness of the risks of climate change and environmental destruction, and a sense of urgency and need for better resource governance. The fishery law reform aiming to revitalize domestic fisheries by attracting private capital investments, particularly in aquaculture, is perceived very negatively, as fishers fear that their privileged access to fishing rights and bottom-up resource co-management will be undermined via commodification and restrictive top-down governance. Knowledge about the reform, however, is remarkably low, raising serious procedural justice concerns.

Fishers thus face multiple insecurities of a volatile changing environment and climate, shifting fish stocks, and resource pressures, and the risks of dispossession and disempowerment in shifting resource governance regimes, while the shock of the Covid-19 pandemic has laid bare already existing problems in seafood value chains. At the same time, the private capital- and growth-oriented shift in fishery governance is also bound to have profound effects on the more-than-human in Japanese coastal waters.