Fishing for answers, reeling in questions

Continuing discussion today in a similar fashion as yesterday, the group welcomed guests Professor Amy Johnson and Olaf Ellers to introduce the topic of fisheries, an important topic for discussing limits to resources and the problems brought to ecosystems by extraction by humans. Before I delve into our discussion on fisheries, I won’t neglect to mention our first keigo lesson which we had today. Keigo is a way of speaking in Japanese during formal introductions and settings. Certain parts of speech may be altered and one must use a different vocabulary. Today’s topic was jikoshōkai or self-introduction. I will be using these often in Tokyo as we meet people who will give us tours, lectures, and invite us into their homes — stay tuned to hear about how these introductions proceed and my takeaways from using keigo! 

Back to fisheries. Fisheries are incredibly relevant to Japan, where fish contributes to people’s diet and is also a distinguishing factor in Japanese culture. To inform our discussion, we read two articles by Satsuki Takahashi: “Endless Modernization: Fisheries Policy and Development in Postwar Japan” looks at the history of Japanese fisheries since the end of World War Two and “Fourfold Disaster: Renovation and Restoration in Post-Tsunami Coastal Japan” places the residents and fishermen of affected areas of the 3/11 disaster at the center of this study and highlights their fears and hopes for the fishery. In order to unpack Takahashi’s arguments and provide context to her work, Professor Johnson provided a presentation on fisheries models and trends in regulation. We explored the Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) model, which is the predominant model used to set quotas in fisheries across the globe. Another important concept is Garrett Harding’s “Tragedy of the Commons,” which is the idea that if all of the users of a common pool resource act in self-interest, the resource will eventually be exhausted. Professor Johnson was able to give great detail on how these ideas apply close to home in the Maine fishery. However, no one in our discussion had enough information about the Japan fishery to really figure out how fisheries models apply to the Japanese fishery. Despite this, after today’s discussion we now have the intellectual tools to observe Tsukiji Fish Market with a critical eye and probe Professor Takahashi in person with questions about the Japanese fishery.