Co-management in Japanese coastal fisheries

Strengthening rights to the commons

Photo and copyright by Mitsutako Makino

Around 2004-2006, after the listing of the coastal area of to the UNESCO World Natural Heritage, a rigid and formal management plan was enacted in order to conserve the coastal ecosystems within the site. In this plan, the existing fishery rights system, traditional knowledge, and autonomous fisheries management measures by local fishers were officially incorporated as the core of the Marine Management Plan. The key factors that enabled this to happen were existing institutional arrangements such as fishery rights and local fisheries cooperative association. Also, new cross-sectoral organization and scientific body established after the nomination to the World Heritage.

Photo and copyright by Mitsutako Makino

Also, for the ecosystem monitoring system to observe the changes in structures and functions of the coastal ecosystems, catch information compiled by fishers’ organizations over 60 years are utilized as the central part of the monitoring system. Based on such a positive appreciation in the official management plan, local fishers’ position was strengthened and they got more incentives to not only contribute to coastal fisheries management but also to the ecosystem conservation. This is an important change in their attitude. Originally, the local fishers were reluctant to nominate to the UNESCO Heritage, because they thought listing would only be for the ‘protection of the environment’, which often means weakening their position in the coastal area.

Parties involved

Involved parties were and are the local fisheries cooperative associations, central government agencies (mainly the Ministry of Environment), the local government, scientists, tourist associations, and environmental NGOs. In the end, all stakeholders inpolved as well as the Japanese citizens were benefited.

IASC involvement

Literature and theories composed by IASC-members (e.g. by Elinor Ostrom), were fully utilized in forming the above system, as well as in drafting the official documents for UNESCO.

Also read: Mitsutako Makino et al. Google. “Satoumi — Co-managing Marine Resources in Shiretoko,” Our World. Last modified October 03, 2012.

Authored by: Mitsutaku Makino, MA, MPhil, PhD, Fisheries Research Agency Japan, involved as member of the Scientific Committee for applying the listing as UNESCO World Nature Heritage