Chuo Online

  • Top
  • Opinion
  • Research
  • Education
  • People
  • RSS

Top>OpinionThe Way Japan Must Engage in Global Environmental Governances


Satoshi Hoshino

Satoshi Hoshino [Satoshi Hoshino]

The Way Japan Must Engage in Global Environmental Governance

Satoshi Hoshino
Professor, Faculty of Law, Chuo University
Areas of Specialization: contemporary political theory and environmental political theory

In his opening address at the fifteenth meeting of the Conference of Parties to the Washington Convention held in Doha in March this year, UN Environment Program (UNEP) Executive Director Steiner remarked how the convention was set up to organize the long-term management of Global biodiversity and that 2010 was the year to change the rate of biodiversity loss. This October, the tenth Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity and the fifth Meeting of the Parties to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety will be held in Nagoya. In this context, it is also a year in which Japan might be asked how it should contribute to biodiversity and conservation of the global environment.

Backdrop of the Bluefin Tuna Issue

At the Doha meeting of the Washington Convention, the proposal by Monaco to prohibit the international trade of the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean bluefin tuna was rejected—with 20 in favor, 68 against, and 30 abstentions. The official name of the Washington Convention is the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, as is widely known, and species threatened with extinction are listed as entries in Appendix I. The giant panda, orangutan, blue whale, and sea turtle are notable examples of animals in this appendix, and in terms of fish, the coelacanth, shortnose sturgeon, sawfish, and Mekong giant catfish.

A glance at the circumstances under which Monaco proposed listing the bluefin tuna in Appendix I shows that this was first supported by the EU. Until the autumn of 2009, the EU held that the issue of prohibiting the international trade of bluefin tuna was a matter to be taken up by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), that the ICCAT strategy with a multiple-year plan was important, and that ICCAT member nations (of which Japan is one) had to consider the amount of stocks at bluefin tuna fisheries. On the other hand, the EU was urged to cosponsor the proposal from Monaco on adding bluefin tuna to Appendix I of the Washington Convention. With regard to this issue, the EU decided to wait for the presentation of scientific evidence from the ICCAT.

Environmental Protection and Scientific Evidence

Further consideration was given to whether the Atlantic Ocean bluefin tuna should be listed in Appendix I of the Washington convention at the ICCAT Scientific Committee meeting held from October 21 to 23, 2009 in Madrid, Spain. It was concluded that there is a 90% or higher possibility that numbers of bluefin tuna are decreasing to less than 15% of what they were prior to the start of commercial trading, and it was reported that the situation necessitated listing them in Appendix I. However, the resolution passed at the 21st Annual ICCAT Meeting held in Recife, Brazil in November 2009 was to set the total catch of bluefin tuna for the 2010 fiscal year at 13,000 tons, a 40% decrease compared with last year. Japan's catch was reduced from 1871 to 1148 tons. The ICCAT is fundamentally an international organization which aims at enabling sustainable fishing of tuna, and owing to the interest of its member nations it was pointed out that, even if it could take measures to ban the capture and trading of baby bluefin tuna or the fishing of spawning bluefin tuna, it would be difficult to obtain consensus prohibiting the catching of adult fish.

The estimate at the Annual ICCAT Meeting was severe, however, for prospective bluefin tuna stocks. Even if a catch of 8000 tons per year was set, there is only a 50% possibility that stocks would be replenished by 2023. It would appear that the EU is leaning further towards supporting the Monaco proposal at the moment and that agreement on the scientific evidence is necessary for international agreement. The conclusions of the ICCAT Scientific committee were by no means 100% conclusive, with room for more accurate investigation on which a consensus needs to be formed. This is something that can also be said about investigation by the International Whaling Commission (IWC) into the population of whales.

The Bluefin Tuna Issue and Japan's Position

In the end, the bluefin tuna stock conservation issue was left to the Conference of Parties to the March 2010 Washington Convention, and the Monaco proposal was rejected. It is said that the influence of China on the African nations served as a backdrop to the rejection this time around. However, it could be argued that concern over the depletion of bluefin tuna resources means that there is a high probability of the ICCAT setting catch restrictions which are stricter than ever before. As the depletion and reduction of various resources poses problems on a global scale, the need for global environmental governance for resource conservation and international consensus building has become increasingly essential. In order to improve the functional capability of global environmental governance, there is a need to build a consensus based on accurate investigation and scientific evidence. Now, Japan is not only asserting its unilateral national interest, but also participating in the framework of global environmental governance positively within the international community, and this is where a demonstration of leadership is called for. While consensus building itself is a scarce resource among the international community, Japan needs at the same time to continue its efforts to increase these resources as well.

Satoshi Hoshino
Lecturer, Faculty of Law, Chuo University Specializations: contemporary political theory and environmental political theory
Satoshi Hoshino was born in Sapporo in 1951. Having done his Doctoral Program in the Graduate School of Law at Chuo University in 1981, he served as an assistant for two years on the university's Faculty of Law, before becoming an assistant lecturer in 1983 and a lecturer in 1990. He was a visiting researcher at Bremen University from 1993 to 1994, and he has been head of the research committee at Chuo University's Graduate School of Law since 2007. His works include Modern Nations and the World System (Dobunkan); Politics of the World System (Koyo Shobo Corporation); The Focus of Modern Age German Politics (Chuo University Publishing Office); Composition of Present-day Theories on Authority (Situation Online—received the 19th Sakurada Association award for political research); Between Nation-states and Empires (Sekai Shyoin Co., Ltd) and Environmental Politics and Governance (Chuo University Publishing Office).