Pursuing sustainability? Ecosystem considerations in Japan’s fisheries governance
In pursuit of sustainable fisheries governance, global agreements have developed an ecosystem approach that requires countries to consider not only target fish stocks but also non-target species and their habitats, and to assess and mitigate the impacts of fisheries on the marine ecosystem as a whole. This study explores to what extent Japan, a major fisheries-dependent country, has incorporated such ecosystem considerations into its domestic fisheries laws and policies. Furthermore, this work examines attributes of ecosystem considerations in Japan’s fisheries policy and their consistency with established ecosystem perspectives and guidelines embedded in multilateral institutional settings. A significant feature of Japan’s fisheries policy is that it focuses on conserving fishing grounds to enhance the productivity of resources, but less on reducing bycatch or discards of non-target species and regulating practices that negatively affect habitats, unless required by regional fisheries management organizations. Therefore, Japan has not yet established a national policy or institutional framework to address the negative impacts of fisheries on ecosystems. The scope of ecosystem consideration in Japan’s fisheries governance and its inconsistencies with international instruments demonstrate substantial challenges for Japan in achieving sustainable fisheries and conserving marine ecosystems.