Japan’s “blue economies”? Japanese firms in the restructuring of the global seafood trade
October 2017 - ongoing
The global seafood trade is characterized by accelerating processes of corporate consolidation, the reorientation of global supply chains and the development of new markets. These growth strategies are overlaid by international projects tapping maritime spaces and resources. For example, efforts to increase the exploitation of marine resources and growth potentials since 2012 have been promoted under slogans such as "blue growth" and "blue economies" in development plans and strategy papers of international organizations. East Asia is a dynamic center in the global trade in fishery products, and Japan occupies a prominent position as one of the world's largest importers. But whereas the domestic market is stagnating, since the mid-1990s, Japanese companies have increasingly relocated their activities abroad. Most of the companies were founded around the turn of the last century and for a long time were primarily active as producers in deep-sea fishing. With shifts in maritime territoriality and Japan's development into a predominantly post-industrial society, they have shifted to mainly trade in fishery products, processing them at cost-effective foreign locations and importing them to Japan. Recent advances in foreign seafood sectors now focus not only on securing high-quality fishery resources for Japanese consumers, but also on finding new growth potentials and opening up overseas markets in order to offset the decline in consumption of fishery products in Japan. This project examines which structural adjustments, strategic reorientations and investment projects will allow selected fishing or trading companies to secure access to maritime spaces and resources as well as to new markets in this dynamic reorganization process. The project thus makes a conceptual contribution to the study of global agri-food systems, in particular pertaining to the role of transnational corporations (TNC) and global production and supply chains. In the context of increased demand for fishery products outside of Japan, along with increasing pressures on resources and regulation, the project also includes discussions on financialization in the primary sector and the commodification of natural resources.