The National Museum of Ethnology (Minpaku) is a research center for ethnology and cultural anthropology.

Change of Coastal Societies: Conservation of Marine Environment and Participatory Development

Joint Research Coordinator MATSUMOTO Hiroyuki

Reserch Theme List


Previously resource management theory has focused on investigative research about producers and the societies of producing areas. However, amidst the conspicuous globalization occurring today, it has become critical to reevaluate how we understand the relationships between producing local societies and the outside world, and therefore necessary also to additionally investigate distribution and local consuming societies. This research has the following objectives. The first is to understand the food system that links distribution and consumption with the operations of producing local societies and probe the possibilities for new resource management and environmental protection frameworks that will more deeply involve the outside world. The second objective is, as far as distribution within the globalization process is concerned, to gauge the impact of national policies for producing societies and ties being reorganized between ethnic societies and the outside economy through a reorganization of small commercial producers and tourist attractions under the guise of an international system of the division of labor. The second objective includes refining the standpoints of the ethno-network theories. The political ecology developed by cultural anthropologists should prove significant in efforts to solve contemporary problems.

Research Results

For the first objective, the food system, and the second, the globalization of distribution, we have witnessed such phenomena as mad cow disease and improvement in standards of living in the Third World, along with increased global consumption of seafood products. Especially in Southeast Asia and China, increased consumption has led to the emergence of marine product processing industries funded by ethnic capital. This consumption is clearly leading to transforming the focal points for international marine products distribution.
In Madagascar, for example, self-producing fishing villages have become incorporated into the commercial economy. Through their connections with the Chinese network, these villages have begun to expand their involvement in the development of specialized marine products such as sea cucumbers and shark fins. For participatory-style development (seen for example in Madagascar, Hawaii and the Galapagos), developing conditions for fair trade under the aegis of NGO have been investigated. However for marine products, product quality management is somewhat difficult, and now is hardly being attempted at all.
Second, in connection with initial attempts at artificial fish cultivation in Southeast Asia, because of initial defects in cultivation farms, effective measures for preventing mangrove trees and sargasso (gulfweed) from flourishing have been enhanced. Through the cooperation of Japanese universities, research designed to develop improved technologies is being attempted. However, regions such as Vietnam have been developing new cultivation grounds along their coasts for supplying other regions, leading to visible deterioration in coastal water zones.
Third, regions like Japan which enjoy the financial wherewithal have been undertaking measures for improving coastal areas. Such measures include planting trees along the upper reaches of waterways, eliminating harmful animal life, transplanting coral, and constructing artificial shorelines. The results of the measures remain unclear.
In tropical water zones, including the Pacific islands and coasts of the Philippines, marine protected areas (MPA) are being established. In connection with the establishment, as in Tonga and Samoa in the Pacific Ocean, it was interestingly clarified that the differences in social systems strongly impact the implementation process. In the South Pacific, although some resorts have been developed with an eye to environmental protection of coral marine zones, as far as the involvement of fisher folk in the tourist business is concerned, we see a definite lack of connection to the oceans and a declining knowledge of the oceans.
Fourth, for the decline in knowledge or changes in perspective, areas throughout the world populated by indigenous peoples have become enmeshed with environmental problems and sustainable development through their use of marine natural resources. Together with scientists these indigenous peoples are pursuing co-management, although there have been reports that as a result of the new restrictions, new social problems have arisen.
That is, we see a trend towards the resource management viewpoint of scientists being adopted into the world view of indigenous peoples.
Fifth, among the problems we were able to highlight in the activities of NGOs and NPOs involved in assistance to preserve and restore the environment, for example with the results-oriented approach in the case of the Sumatra (Java Trench) earthquakes, was the fact that the results have been impacted by the existence or non-existence of local leadership and ease of access. This existence or non-existence has resulted in large discrepancies vis-à-vis the selection of regions for activities.