Japanese Fisheries and Equipoise

Today’s discussion felt slightly less theoretical and more immediately applicable to our research on Japanese fisheries. Professors Amy Johnson and Olaf Ellers generously offered their knowledge, time, and expertise on Maine fisheries, while also sharing their impressions and experiences surrounding the perception of fisheries—and science in general—while on sabbatical in Japan. As Olaf noted at one point in the conversation, in Japan, there is a more of a sense that people trust and revere science compared to the US. In contrast to fisherman in Maine who are often averse to collaboration with scientists, Amy and Olaf speculated that attitudes of fishermen in Japan might feel more open to science. They posed the questions, “How do fishermen in Japan interact with scientists? And what are the implications of this for locations ranging from Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo to small street corner sushi stalls in the Tokyo metropolitan area?” Given that I have interacted with Amy and Olaf in primarily scientific contexts (lectures, labwork, etc.), it was fascinating to hear them consider the anthropological impacts on fisheries. Expanding on our readings, they suggested that the scientific models to optimize fishery function have been around for over twenty years; however, the difficulty is in convincing people to actively implement them. As our research employs an anthropological and often interview-based approach, it will be useful to keep this contradiction in mind. To Professor Klingle from Monday’s discussion, “To be a scholar and an intellectual is to be cruel in some sense.” As we speak with those involved with Japanese fisheries, it will be tempting to critique some approaches and flaws that are apparent to us from our readings and discussions. However, we as students must employ equipoise in order to kindly empathize with where our interviewees are coming from while also continuing to critically question.