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Commons in Action

"Commons in action" is a joint program by the IASC and the Elinor Ostrom Award. The animation was done by the Viumasters. Get to know their work at

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Co-management in Japanese coastal fisheries

Articles and Photographs: Mitsutaku MAKINO, M.A., M. Phil., Ph.D., Fisheries Research Agency Japan
Country: Japan
Type of resources involved: Coastal Ecosystem

What change happened to strengthen rights to the commons?
After the listing of the coastal area of to the UNESCO World Natural Heritage, a rig id and formal management plan was enacted in order to conserve the coastal ecosystems within the site. In this plan, the existing fishery rights system, traditional knowledge, and autonomous fisheries management measures by local fishers were officially incorporated as the core of the Marine Management Plan. AIso, for the ecosystem monitoring system to observe the changes in structures and functions of the coastal ecosystems, catch information compiled by fishers' organizations over 60 years are utilized as the central part of the monitoring system. Based on such a positive appreciation in the official management plan, local fishers' position was strengthened and they got more incentives to not only contribute to coastal fisheries management but also to the ecosystem conservation. This is an important change in their attitude. Originally, the local fishers were reluctant to nominate to the UNESCO Heritage, because they thought listing would only be for the ''protection of the environment'', which often means weakening their position in the coastal area.

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When did this happen?
This happened around 2004-2006.
What were key factors that made this happen?
The key factors that enabled this to happen were existing institutional arrangements such as fishery rights and Iocal fisheries cooperative association. AIso, new cross-sectoral organization and scientific body established after the nomination to the World Heritage.
Who was involved?
Local Fisheries Cooperative Associations, Central government agencies (mainly the Ministry of Environment), Local government, Scientist, Tourist associations , and Environmental NGOs.
Who benefitted?
AII of the above stakeholders and the Japanese citizens were benefited.
Was there any IASC connection that facilitated this change?
Literature and theories produced by IASC members, for example, Elinor Ostrom, were fully utilized in forming above system, as well as in drafting official documents for UNESCO.
Were you personally involved?
I was involved as a member of the Scientific Committee.

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