This study explores recent trends in Japanese Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). The most common definition of a Marine Protected Area is:
Any area of intertidal or subtidal terrain, together with its overlying waters and associated flora, fauna, historical and cultural features, which has been reserved by law or other effective means to protect part or all of the enclosed environment. (Resolution by 17th General Assembly of the World Conservation Union [IUCN], 17.38, 1994)
As Graeme Kelleher has correctly pointed out in the Guidelines for Marine Protected Areas, this definition of MPA “does not state that an MPA should keep people out.” An MPA is not a “fence” in the sea but a marine management tool to help preserve ecosystems/biodiversity and sustainable development (in particular, fishery). It is vital to keep in mind that establishing an MPA never blocks fishery.
However, Japanese fishers often misinterpret MPAs as no-take zones, causing them to object strongly to their establishment. This is also the case with the Japanese government; in Japanese fishery diplomacy, the fishery agency considered an MPA that expanded into the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) or even into the high seas to be an area that could prevent fishing operations.
An MPA is not a no-take zone; the broad spectrum of MPA management approaches (which can include no-take areas) is key to sustaining resources, safeguarding ecosystem functions and biodiversity, or providing a framework to support the use of resources and space with minimal conflict.