Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey

The Hayward Sustainability Speaker Series is supported by a generous grant from Nancy Eccles and Homer M. Hayward Family Foundation.

The Dawn of Sustainable Seafood in Japan

Dr. Isao Sakaguchi
Visiting Scholar at the Center for the Blue Economy
Professor of International Relations, Faculty of Law 
Gakushuin University, Tokyo, Japan

Isao Sakaguchi Picture

Thursday, May 11th
Center for the Blue Economy, MIIS
Craig Building, Room 10
472 Pierce Street, Monterey, CA 93940


About the Topic

In the global fishing economy, Japan is a titan. Japan is the second-largest fish and seafood importer in the world and the top market in all of Asia. However, retailers and restaurants sell seafood without considering sustainability. Three Bluefin tuna species and three eel species are all classified as endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), basically because of high demand in the Japanese market. Seafood caught by illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fisheries flows into the unethical Japanese market. More than half of the coastal fish stocks in Japan are now in over-fished status. Consumers are blissfully unaware.

Walking through the isles of a Japanese supermarket, it is uncommon to see sustainable seafood certification labels. Why is this? Because there is a severe public governance deficit in the management of fisheries and aquaculture. In Japan, public regulation is dysfunctional.

But there is hope. Private certification schemes and rating schemes (similar to Seafood Watch) have begun to play a central role in promoting sustainable fisheries and aquaculture through an enlightened market. There is mounting economic pressure for sustainable seafood ahead of the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2020. Sustainable sourcing of seafood became a norm of the International Olympic Committee in 2012, and more and more fishermen and aquaculture farmers in Japan are now interested in seafood certification. Recently, the largest supermarket company in Japan announced a new policy to sustainably source all seafood and aquaculture products. The tides may indeed be turning.

However, legitimate international certification agencies are locked in an unusual battle with Japanese local schemes. These local schemes are strongly promoted by the Fisheries Agency of Japan, but work as “blue-washing” mechanisms. For example, they call practices like targeting spawning schools of pacific Bluefin tuna "sustainable." In addition, the Tokyo Olympic Organizing Committee recently adopted a lax sourcing code ahead of the 2020 Olympics, which may jeopardize the future of the sustainable seafood market in Japan.

The dawn of sustainable seafood faces a highly uncertain future, but with more and more public awareness, there is hope. Join Dr. Isao Sakaguchi, Visiting Scholar at the Center for the Blue Economy, as he discusses current efforts to rescue the nascent sustainable seafood market in Japan.

About the Speaker

Dr. Isao Sakaguchi joined the Center for the Blue Economy as a Visiting Scholar in September of 2016. He is former Chair of the Department of Political Studies and currently Professor of International Relations with the Faculty of Law at Gakushuin University in Tokyo, Japan. Dr. Sakaguchi will be researching issues of seafood traceability in the course of his 18 month appointment with the Center for the Blue Economy. His primary research agenda is “Exploration of Effective Growth of Private Seafood Sustainability Certification Schemes.” Dr. Sakaguchi will analyze the conditions of effective growth of certification schemes through comparative case studies of fisheries and aquaculture schemes as a part of a larger joint-research project which includes comparison with certification schemes of forestry and biofuels. The goal of this study is to provide a rich set of policy guidelines for those who govern and to sponsor and promote legitimate seafood certification schemes that can adjust to changing circumstances.

Lecture Location

The Center for the Blue Economy Craig Building is located at 472 Pierce Street in Monterey, and is a white, free-standing, Victorian building. Room 10 is on the first floor, and may be accessed by the front doors of the building. The Craig Building is noted as "CBE" building #14 on the MIIS campus map. Click here to access the MIIS campus map.


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831-647-6615 x1
(Middlebury Institute community members may dial x8401)

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