Life Above Water – Japanese translation

Life Above Water

Essays of Human Experiences of Small-Scale Fisheries

Japanese translation

Introduction by Ratana Chuenpagdee

Since the publication of the book ‘Life Above Water’ by Professor Svein Jentoft in the TBTI Global E-book Series in 2019, we have been able to use it to call attention to the “upside” of small-scale fisheries. The book serves as an important reminder, to policy makers and governments, as well as investors, that small-scale fisheries are not to be dismissed in the discussion about Blue Growth and Blue Economy. In fact, we have been arguing that there cannot be sustainable ocean economy without small-scale fisheries, given the prominent role they play in supporting livelihood, employment, and food and nutrition security to millions of people around the world, and considering their contribution to conservation and stewardship. This message is stated loud and clear in the follow-up publications: “Blue Justice: Small-Scale Fisheries in a Sustainable Ocean Economy” (2022 TBTI book in the Springer MARE Publication Series, edited by Jentoft, Chuenpagdee, Bugeja Said and Isaacs); “Interactive learning and governance transformation for securing Blue Justice for small-scale fisheries,” a paper by Jentoft and Chuenpagdee (2022) in Administration and Society, and “Blue Justice and the co-production of hermeneutical resources for small- scale fisheries”, by Arias Schreiber, Chuenpagdee, and Jentoft (2022) in Marine Policy. The latter, in particular, offers a glossary of terms to talk about Blue Justice in a language that is easy to comprehend. The glossary is now being translated into many languages, including Japanese, which was done by TBTI Japan.

The reason for the translation of the glossary is the same as with this book: we need to do more to make our work accessible to people who may not be familiar with the original language of the publication. This effort helps increase the impact of our work, on the ground in the small-scale fisheries communities that the book talks about, and at the policy level where change can be initiated, along with all the necessary support to make small-scale fisheries viable and sustainable.

We are truly grateful to Yinji Li and Tamano Namikawa of TBTI Japan, and all the contributors, for the Japanese version of the Life Above Water book. We are encouraged by the enthusiasm and the commitment by our colleagues in Japan who are, above all, spreading the words about small-scale fisheries, making them visible and their presence matter. With the translated book, we can imagine that the life of small-scale fisheries in Japan, above the water and on the land, will no longer be ignored.

'On the Occasion of this Publication' by Xiaobo Lou

... Given the current trend of academics focusing on their own research and thesis writing rather than the translation of foreign books--for which, despite the effort it takes, little reward is given – this translation is a distinctive work that we rarely see anymore. I would like to express my deep respect to the translation authors Dr. Yinji Li and Dr. Tamano Namikawa, as well as those who contributed to the short communication essays...

As can be described from the title, "Life Above Water", this book focuses on the very human-social issues of fishers and fishers’ communities. In the past, a renowned marine forensic scientist pointed out that "most of the problems of the oceans are caused by problems on the human society side." I have always believed that this is the “word of truth" that pierces the essence of the fisheries and marine issues. Overfishing, deterioration of the commons, pollution of the marine environment and coastal areas, the increase of ocean warming, the collapse of fisheries and local communities, and international conflicts over the oceans are all caused by "business" on the human side. In that sense, in order to solve the "problem of the sea", it is necessary to solve the "problem on the human society side" first. This book focuses precisely on that and develops a unique analysis of systems, management systems, rules, and similar topics. Another feature of this book is that among the problems in the human society side, it focuses on "small-scale fishing" and discusses the lives, livelihoods, and happiness of these fishers and their families. Moreover, it should be noted that the author's gaze toward them is extremely warm and sincere. Beyond simply praising "Small is beautiful", it pays attention to the socio-economic role of small-scale fisheries, their survival conditions, the quality of life of the people who bear them, and the significance of their existence is explained as if it were a metaphor of "small in scale, big in value".

Under the 2018 Japanese Fisheries Act, which has undergone a transformation from the former "Adjusted Legal" Fisheries Act to the "Resource Management Legal" Fisheries Act after the "first major revision in 70 years," discussions such as "voluntary management/ community-based management" or "TAC management", "small-scale family-run fisheries" or "industrial, corporate fisheries", and even "fairness/ equitability" or "productivity", "principle of cooperation" or "principle of competition" are being fought along diverging paths. This book provides highly intellectual and suggestive hints for such complex discussions that are never black and white. If you are interested in Japanese fisheries, especially "small-scale fisheries," this is a must-read.

Forward by Yinji Li and Tamano Namikawa

Since the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were set at the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit 2015, interest in SDG14: Life below water has increased more than ever in the marine and fisheries sectors. Under such circumstances to protect life below water, an impressive assertion has been made to protect life above water, which includes people, fishing villages, and communities closely related to those lives. This is what the TBTI * Global Book Series "Life Above Water (Svein Jentoft 2019)" is about. The book gives an important perspective on the realization of fisheries and ocean sustainability, which is still under discussion and has a long way to go before being accomplished, regardless of the recent increase in discussions and research.

Small-scale fisheries account for about half of the world's fish catch (including those caught in marine and freshwater environments), employ more than 90% of the world's approximately 30 million fishers, and support an additional 84 million people through related industries such as processing and distribution. Even in Japan, 80% of fishers are small- scale coastal fishers, and 90% of them are family-owned. The scale is "small", but the significance of their existence is "large", such as the conservation of ecosystems, the inheritance of traditional culture, and the maintenance of local communities. However, in the age of great change, we are facing various contemporary issues, and the question of how to ensure their sustainability has been brought to the foreground.

This book emphasizes the importance of small-scale fisheries and discusses governance to ensure the sustainability of small-scale fisheries. Although it is an academic book, it is written in an essay format and is easy to read. It covers the relationship between important topics in the marine-related field and small-scale fisheries and is a useful book for small-scale fisheries in Japan. Through the Japanese translation of this book, we would like to raise awareness of small-scale fisheries in Japan and provide an opportunity for everyone to think about appropriate governance and policies for small-scale fisheries. Particularly in 2022, which is the International Year of Artisanal Fisheries and Aquaculture (IYAFA), the translation of such a book is very meaningful, and we are most pleased to be able to publish it.

This translation consists of 28 chapters, each of which is not only a translation but also includes a short communication essay by the translators. We also received various comments, including those from the fishers, about their expectations, concerns, and issues related to the new Fisheries Act. This translation, which was created by 22 authors and 14 short communication contributors, is considered to be another huge achievement by working together, following the 2020 TBTI Japan e-book "In the Era of Big Change, which received the Publication and Culture Prize of the Japanese Association for Coastal Zone Studies. We sincerely hope you will take some time to read it and think about small-scale fisheries in Japan, whose international recognition is low, although Japan is a fisheries and oceans nation.

Svein Are bilde-s

Svein Jentoft is Professor Emeritus at the Norwegian College of Fishery Science, UiT – The Arctic University of Norway. His long career as a social scientist specializing on fisheries management and fisheries communities has yielded numerous articles and books. He has led and been involved in many international projects, working in the Global South as well as in the North. He also has a long time interest in the conditions of indigenous peoples in Nicaragua and his native Norway. In 2018, he was awarded an honorary doctoral degree at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, and a ʻFriend of Small-Scale Fisheriesʼ award at the 3rd World Small-Scale Fisheries Conference in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Yinji Li

Yinji Li is an associate professor at Tokai University in Shizuoka. Her research interests and expertise lie in fisheries and coastal issues among Northeast Asia, such as Japan, Mainland China, Taiwan, and South Korea. For many years, she has been researching these areas to understand the actual conditions and challenges on governance mechanisms, community institutions, market and branding systems, community-based tourism, etc., and interacting with relevant stakeholders. She is a member of the Too Big To Ignore (TBTI) project, Human Dimensions Working Group of Integrated Marine Biosphere Research (IMBeR) project, and coordinator of Japan country team of the Vulnerability to Viability Global Partnership(V2V) project.


Tamano Namikawa was born in Kanagawa Prefecture. After graduating from the Department of Construction, Faculty of Engineering, Yokohama National University, she engaged in port planning and coastal planning at a construction consulting company. After leaving the company, she received a Ph.D. in Marine Science from the Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology. She started her current career in the Japanese Institute of Fisheries Infrastructure and Communities in 2011.

TBTI Global Book Series

Life Above Water [Japanese translation] is a tenth book published under TBTI Global Book Series. This publication series that aims to highlight why we need to pay close attention to small-scale fisheries. The series will be of use to anyone interested in learning more about small-scale fisheries, especially about their important contribution to livelihoods, well-being, poverty alleviation and food security, as well as to those who are keen to help raise profile of small-scale fisheries in the policy realm.