Information Dissemination about the Ocean

【Ocean Newsletter】Back issues

No.0 July 20, 2000

To Everyone Involved with the Ocean from the Newsletter Editorial Committee

Situation Concerning the Discussion of Ocean Issues in Japan

It is often pointed out that Japan lacks integrated maritime policies. Specifically, there is no governmental authority that manages the ocean and its environment on a national level, there is no legal system stipulating the basic philosophy and principles surrounding our nation's ocean governance, and individual government offices, departments and agencies draft and implement policies for each administrative division-a typical vertical administrative system. Furthermore, the range of jurisdiction of the national government and local governments regarding the ocean is not clearly defined. The use of the ocean has been made very complicated by the lack of an integrated maritime management system-a critical drawback in dealing with the most important task of making necessary adjustments with regard to the use and environment of the ocean for industrial, recreational and other purposes.
However, this lack of an integrated management system with regard to maritime policy is found not just in the administration of our nation, it is also seen in the academic world; people in the academic world have not tried to overcome the differences in areas of specialization regarding ocean issues, and consequently have been unable to clear the hurdle lying between the natural and social sciences, nor even that lying between closely related sciences. It is extremely rare for industrial users (typically represented by those involved in land reclamation), people engaged in the fisheries industry, various manufacturing users, people who use the sea for recreational purposes, and various parties interested in the use and environmental protection of the sea to come together to express their views, thoughts and principles and discuss ocean issues beyond the bounds of their own respective area of use.
In Japan, the majority of ocean-related discussions have been carried out against a backdrop of clashing conflicting interests. Regrettably, the situation has been "In rage deaf as sea" (King Richard the Second, act I, scene I) as written by Shakespeare.
This situation must be reformed immediately. This is the first message of the Editorial Committee upon the publication of the first newsletter.

Pursuing the Concept of Integrated Ocean Governance Policy for the 21st Century

Why should we now take a step forward to implement reform? The answer is because policies that are urgently needed to deal with Japan's various ocean issues have not yet been established. Furthermore, important changes are currently being made to a framework for determining maritime policies in such a manner that may prevent important tasks from being accomplished. We think it is necessary to address this situation within the limits of our capability.
Six years have passed since the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea was put into effect and it is four years since Japan ratified it. Despite this, however, Japan has still been unable to establish a concept or policy for controlling and using their 200 nautical mile zone. Not only this, but, as we have seen, even though the adjustments among many different competing users raise serious social problems, the political regulations regarding the systematic management and use of coastal areas have not yet been established.
Given this situation, the Council for Ocean Development was established as an advisory body to the Prime Minister and the concerned government authorities discussed Japan's maritime policies. Although this step should have been of some significance, the Council for Ocean Development was abolished as part of the administrative reform. The functions of this council are to be taken over by the Subcommittee for Ocean Development, which will be established at the Science Investigation Council of the Ministry of Education and Science. As we move into the 21st century, it is a significant change in the maritime policy of Japan, a maritime state urgently in need of far-sighted policies for the coming century, that an organization for formulating integrated maritime policies, which ranks the highest of the current administrative machinery, is downgraded to one subcommittee of the Science Investigation Council.
On the other hand, the Ministry of Construction and the Ministry of Transport, which both exercise a large amount of authority on ocean issues in the administration system, will be integrated into the Ministry of Land, Transport and Infrastructure. The National Land Agency that is responsible for national land planning will also be integrated into the Ministry of Land, Transport and Infrastructure. Ministry of Land, Transport and Infrastructure will thus become a single decision-making organ that exercises enormous authority. How this giant ministry will coordinate with other government agencies with sea-related authority will have a decisive influence on our nation's ocean governance in the 21st century. Also, basic changes will be made in the legal system; specifically, basic laws relating to ocean governance such as the Coast Law, the Harbor Law and the Fishery Harbor Law will be revised and the fundamental law on marine products will be newly legislated.
While the organizations responsible for studying maritime policies are downgraded in the administrative machinery, legal reforms are underway and a giant ministry will come into being. At the turn of the century, the significance of ensuring that people of all walks of life who are interested in the ocean have a forum for exchanging opinions, reviewing various different viewpoints, and framing a consensus toward the formulation of maritime policies is greater than ever before.
The publication of a written opinion titled the "21st Century Grand Ocean Design" by the Japan Federation of Industrial Organizations in June of this year shows that the business community feels the necessity for discussing ocean issues in a systematic, comprehensive manner. (An article contributed by the person involved in the written opinion will appear in the first issue of the newsletter.) In Japan, there is now an increasing awareness of the necessity for discussing far-sighted policies for Japan as a maritime state in the 21st century, and the time is now right for such discussions.

More Diversified Discussions Needed to Carry Out the Reform

How should the reform of ocean governance in Japan be carried out? The chief editors of this newsletter have no message to offer on this point. We think that starting from a clean slate is important.
To achieve better coexistence between mankind and the ocean in Japan or on a global scale, how should each value associated with the philosophies of people's everyday life be ranked hierarchically? How should the sequence of cause and effect regarding various effects that specific activities have on the sea be understood in an objective manner? Who should accomplish our common purpose with limited resources and time by using what means and in what order? Who should bear the cost and how? Are there answers to these questions that can satisfy both fairness and efficiency? How should clashes of interest be mediated?
All these problems are social issues to which solutions can be found only after listening to many different viewpoints and discussing and arguing over the criticisms and counter criticisms. Realization of the coexistence between mankind and the ocean is likely to be an achievement that may only be accomplished by accumulating innumerable pieces of wisdom that are contemplated and allowed to mature.

Demand for Cycle of Sending, Receiving and Resending

The basic function of this newsletter is to provide people diversely different in position and viewpoint with a forum for discussion and to contribute to the formulation of maritime policies to achieve coexistence between mankind and the ocean.
By creating a cycle that starts with the reaction of readers to information provided by this newsletter and continues as they send messages back and their own messages are made known to more readers through the newsletter again, the Editorial Committee believes that the newsletter can perform the basic function of exchanging information interactively and expanding the range of communication. The Editorial Committee believes that information sent from and received by this newsletter should cover all possible levels and areas of information from news about local, small sea areas to global-scale news and from science and technology to ethnic culture. Therefore, this newsletter welcomes free and active contributions from businessmen, researchers, students, citizens, politicians, public employees, or anyone, irrespective of occupation, age, gender or nationality.
To accomplish our mission of providing people diversely different in position and viewpoint with a forum for discussion, the Editorial Committee believes that this newsletter must maintain its neutrality and fairness.
The ocean is the remnant of a primitive chaos. Furthermore, the ocean is a vast and boundless domain where everything is born, leaves and returns. We will publish this newsletter with the declaration of our editorial policy as the wish that it becomes a medium indispensable to the creation of a rich, fertile sea, promoting the coexistence of mankind and the ocean.