University of Tasmania Law Review
Japan’s International Fisheries Policy: Law, Diplomacy and Politics Governing Resource Security
New York: Nissan Institute/Routledge, 2015, pp 216, ISBN 978-1138-77523-7, RRP £85
Smith’s Japan’s International Fisheries Policy provides an in-depth analysis of the underlying complexities which have informed Japan’s fisheries policy since the end of the Second World War. This book provides an accessible overview of half a century of Japanese international fisheries policy, and gives the reader insight into the domestic factors which drive the course of the country’s international relations. Unlike any other country, fish provides over half of all animal protein consumed by the Japanese. As the country’s landscape is ill-suited for farming, securing food supply through international fisheries policy goes to the heart of Japan’s national interest.
Smith argues that since the mid-20th century, Japanese policy has been aimed at ensuring food security in an effort to establish and maintain selfsufficiency.1 By offering a comprehensive overview of Japanese international fisheries policy at various ocean conventions in the post-war period, such as the INPFC International Convention for the High Seas Fisheries of the North Pacific Ocean and the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, this text fills a notable gap in the existing literature. Accordingly, policy makers, practitioners in the law of oceans field, and students alike will find this an invaluable resource.
Various authors, notably Curtis, have argued that Japan has no distinguishable foreign policy and that it is instead largely reactive, merely responding to changes in the international system.2 In this text, Smith argues that not only does Japan’s contribution to the abovementioned conventions demonstrate a clearly discernible international fisheries policy, but also that these policies have proved largely successful.3
While this proposition seems strained in more recent analysis, early policy largely supports this view. In support of his argument, Smith identifies food security and self-sufficiency as consistent policy aims and
1 Roger Smith, Japan’s International Fisheries Policy: Law, Diplomacy and Politics Governing Resource Security (Routledge, 2015) 20.
2 Gerald Curtis, Japan’s Foreign Policy After the Cold War: Coping with Change (M E
Sharpe, 1993); Michael Blaker, ‘Evaluating Japanese Diplomatic Performance’ in Gerald
Curtis (ed) Japan’s Foreign Policy After the Cold War: Coping with Change (M.E. Sharpe, 1993); Kent Calder, Crisis and Compensation: Public Policy and Political Stability in Japan, 1949-1986 (Princeton University Press, 1988). 3 Smith, above n 1, 13.
Book Reviews 143
points to United States-backing and the more recent comprehensive security strategy as a means towards this end. He presents this argument through a broad comparative view of Japanese policy and demonstrates that any change in approach has merely been adaptive in response to a rapidly changing international system. This book convincingly supports this argument by looking at three important phases in post-war international ocean policy and the policy responses elicited by Japan.
Smith begins with an explanation of how the post-war international oceans regime, dominated by ideals of mare liberum, was ideal for Japan’s pursuit of self-sufficiency and food security. When conflicts arose with neighbouring countries such as the Soviet Union, Japan was able to capitalise on the open seas and move fishing operations into other areas. As Japan’s food security policy during this period largely depended on the maintenance of pre-war concepts of an open oceans system, bilateral and regional agreements became increasingly important. Japan successfully negotiated regional fisheries agreements with the support of the US and navigated challenging negotiations with countries including the Soviet Union, the People’s Republic of China and South Korea.
The 1970s marked the beginning of the ‘enclosure movement’, with ideas of the ‘closed sea’ gaining salience. The UNCLOS III negotiations and subsequent developments left Japan with severely restricted access to areas upon which it usually depended for fishing operations. Smith lays out the attempts by Japan to secure fish supplies despite the resulting limited access to the sea and its struggle to maintain self-sufficiency around further developments such as the introduction of the 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone.
In light of flagging support from the US on issues of distant water fisheries, Japan was forced to modify its policy and began importing large amounts of fish to feed a rapidly growing population. Smith identifies this period as the beginning of Japan’s comprehensive security regime which continued to equate ideals of self-sufficiency and food security as a means of defending the national interest.
Smith identifies four main parts of this new approach: more intense development of coastal fisheries, an increase in imports, the utilisation of multilateral forums to promote open fisheries arrangements and, lastly, the continued negotiation of bilateral agreements. Further developments in the international system however have continued to impede Japanese efforts to secure these policy goals.
144 The University of Tasmania Law Review Vol 34 No 1 2015
The author identifies the final important phase as one which has been marked by an increasing trend towards environmental protection. He examines the role the ‘precautionary principle’ has had on Japanese fishing operations and employs whaling as a case study. Protections have also been placed on straddling stocks and moratoriums issued on particular fishing locations such as the Bering Sea ‘Doughnut Hole’. Increased restrictions on access to distant water fisheries and moratoriums on specific species have continued to complicate Japan’s efforts to secure self-sufficiency. As such, demands for the preservation of certain species have met strong opposition from the Japanese government. These ongoing developments have undermined a free and open sea, and by extension, Japan’s ability to access the resources necessary to realise its national security policy aims.
Smith’s text concludes with a chapter which examines recent clashes with Australia and New Zealand over Japanese whaling operations in Antarctic waters. Critics have found Japan’s continued persistence in pursuing these operations perplexing, particularly given the diminutive size of the whaling industry and the international condemnation which it incites.
Indeed, Smith refutes Japanese cultural claims invoked to justify the whaling industry and instead concludes that it was created largely as a post-war industry pursued in an effort to secure a stable food source. In present times, Japan is loath to allow even further restrictions on the ocean upon which it relies and is wary of setting a precedent for further restrictions on additional species of fish. By highlighting this ongoing effort to pursue food security through international relations, Smith effectively demonstrates the continued relevance of his thesis.
Through his examination of Japanese international fisheries treaties and convention contributions, Smith thoroughly traces Japanese fisheries policy over more than half a century. His argument that the pursuit of self-sufficiency has consistently underpinned policy decisions is cogent and well supported. This text highlights the importance of international fisheries as essential to Japan’s national interest and explores how comprehensive security encompasses food supply. As such, this book will prove a necessary resource for anyone conducting research into the topic of Japanese fisheries or its national policy of comprehensive security.
 Ibid 31, 46.
 Ibid 68.
 Ibid 100.
 Ibid 15.
 Ibid 83.
 Ibid 132.
 Ibid 134.
Hannah Moore is a penultimate year BA/LLB student at the University of Tasmania and is a Board Member of the University of Tasmania Law Review for 2015.