Neoliberalism in Japan's Tuna Fisheries, Government intervention and reform in the Distant Water Longline Industry
Neoliberalism is a political economy term that refers to a public policy mix that is market oriented, pro trade liberalization and advocates minimal state intervention in the economy. Japanese governance has arguably not been based on neoliberal principles, and some see this as contributing to Japan’s long running recession. Japan’s distant water tuna longline fleet has been in economic difficulties since the early years of the recession. In 2001 Prime Minister Koizumi came to power promising neoliberal style reform. This paper presents a history of government involvement in the distant water tuna longline industry and looks for evidence that recent reforms have changed this involvement; both in terms of observable changes to governance structures, and of key stakeholders’ receptiveness to neoliberalism as visible in their representations of issues facing tuna fisheries. We find that very few neoliberal reforms have been implemented in this sector. Furthermore key stakeholders show little sympathy with neoliberal policy prescriptions, meaning they are unlikely to champion such reforms. This conclusion may be specific to fisheries since in Japan the political importance of food production and the iconic status of fish cuisine make the sector particularly susceptible to economic nationalism. In examining relations between industry and government the paper also highlights problems in Japan’s co-management of fisheries.
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