Not so small after all

In the past two months, I have had an opportunity to speak to the Japanese public regarding small-scale fisheries issues as well as regarding Too Big To Ignore (TBTI) and Vulnerability to Viability (V2V). These are the two leading, global partnerships’ projects focusing on small-scale fisheries research. My talks were about why small-scale fisheries are important for achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including the SDG14, and the roles small-scale fisheries play. The talks also included topics about the position of small-scale fisheries in the era of Blue Economic/Blue Growth, what needs to be done and what research initiatives are taking place, why we need the global partnership projects like TBTI and V2V, along with other related topics.

With such opportunities, I was glad to learn that many people are interested in small-scale fisheries. At the same time, I also felt like we still have a long way to go, and therefore, the vision of TBTI Japan Research Network, which was established in July 2020, is necessary and vital. For instance, I see a prevalence of the belief that the SDGs and the SSF Guidelines (The Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries in the Context of Food Security and Poverty Eradication) matter only for the developing countries and are something that is ‘far away’, which is clearly not the case. The parts of the TBTI Japan vision that are especially relevant in this context call for (1) Dispatching the information actively along with systematic research on the various functions, importance, and latent strength of Japanese small-scale fisheries, and (6) Helping Japan to recognize the SSF Guidelines and promote its implementation fully and make a conscious effort on its application.

Japanese small-scale fisheries are in an era of change, under a major fisheries policy reform, which took place in December 2018 and started being enforced on December 1st, 2020. While the original act from 1949 had put much emphasis on the “comprehensive and advanced use of fishing grounds” and “democratization of fisheries,” the new policy is more about “resource management and fishery efficiency.” It remains to be seen how Japan will secure small-scale fisheries sustainability in the era of such a big change (Li et al. 2020)[i]. As an oceans’ nation with an advanced fisheries industry, Japan is responsible for fulfilling its mission towards the SDG 14 and other SDGs. However, at least within the Japanese small-scale fisheries industry, Japan is not yet ready to lead the international community.

“Life above water is essential for securing the life below water and must be nurtured structurally as well as in moral terms.” (Jentoft 2019, p134)[ii]This is an important quote from Professor Svein Jentoft’s latest book, “Life Above Water,” published by TBTI Global. I hope this message will resonate well with the Japanese public. I enjoyed starting my talks by mentioning that this topic is “small” and ending the discussion by saying that this topic is not so small after all. Small-Scale Fisheries are Too Big To Ignore and Too Important To Fail.

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