Japanese Common Fishing Rights System

Japanese Common Fishing Rights System

Japan has a long history of marine tenure in small-scale, coastal fisheries dating back to the early 1700s, when fishing groups first formed to protect coastal areas from outsiders. During the 1930s, as most coastal fishing boats became motorized, fishing pressure increased on coastal fish stocks. Overfishing and conflicts among fishermen, namely between coastal fishermen and industrial trawlers began to occur.

The Japanese government sought to address these increasing issues by formalizing the rights and co-management responsibilities of local cooperatives and establishing Fishery Cooperative Associations (FCAs) as part of the Fishery Law of 1949.  The program established the current goals for nearshore fisheries, specifically: protecting small-scale coastal fishermen from outside fishing pressure, promoting the involvement of fishermen in management practices and incorporating community knowledge in management decisions.

The common fishery rights program vests responsibilities to fishermen in an appropriate and effective way to drive the success for coastal fisheries. The co-management arrangement has enabled innovation by giving FCAs the authority to adapt and/or implement additional regulations tailored to local, day-to-day operations within their TURF. These rules are mutually agreed upon between members and submitted to the prefecture for approval and formalization. Fishery Management Organizations emerged in the early 1980s to coordinate activities across FCAs. National policy promoted and fostered their development as an effective tool for fisheries management. Since its implementation, the program has met its stated goals and has stimulated fishermen innovation.