Japan → US Fishery Exchange

EDF | 2018

I developed and hosted a 10-day tour of New England and West Coast fisheries on behalf of EDF Japan for a group of Japanese government officials from the Fisheries Agency (FA) and Fisheries Research Agency (FRA). The goal was to learn about how federal fisheries in the US are managed, what challenges were encountered as this system evolved, and what innovative solutions have been developed to overcome those challenges.

In the final weeks of 2018, Japan’s legislature enacted the most significant reform of its fisheries laws in 70 years. The reform package incorporated several recommendations from EDF including expanding stock assessments to cover all commercial stocks and increasing the percentage of catch managed with science-based catch limits. The passage of the reform legislation through the Japanese Diet (Japan’s bicameral legislature) marked a landmark moment in the nation’s efforts to reform its fisheries, which has been a high priority for Prime Minister Abe.

While the reforms being passed by the Diet are a meaningful step forward on the road to creating sustainable fisheries in Japan, regulations known as cabinet and ministerial ordinances will still need to be drafted by Japan’s Fishery Agency (FA) and will shape how the legislation is put in place on the water.

Anticipating the passage of this reform, staff from the FA and scientists from the FRA requested EDF's help in organizing a trip to learn about the US system and decide which elements of it they may incorporate into the new Japanese implementing regulations.

 

To enable this learning, I planned a packed itinerary of meetings with NOAA officials, managers, scientists, fishermen, fishing organizations, and other stakeholders on the East and West Coast. We heard firsthand about how fisher management in the US has changed for the better, but that there are still active challenges they are working to overcome.

The Japanese delegation was extremely impressed by the collaboration between scientists and the fishing industry. They were surprised that fishermen appreciate the science and try to get involved in collecting and interpreting data. The exchange focused heavily on the way fishermen in the US are involved in management decision-making through the Fishery Management Councils. The senior FRA advisor present told us that, after what they learned on the exchange, they intend to propose to implement a similar system in Japan.

At the end, the delegates had greater confidence that science-based fishery management can be effective and it is feasible to develop a system that enables all stakeholders to work together.

 

In addition to achieving the goals of the participants, the exchange was successful in better positioning EDF to support the FA and FRA in the implementation of the new fishery policy moving forward.