Our project evaluates ecosystem services in the coastal regions of Southeast Asia. We develop and utilize the new concept of “Area Capability” to address the issue of people’s participation in management policy while taking into account the particular features of a region. With this concept, we seek to present a unified path for improving the sustainable use of ecosystems and the lives of people.
To preserve biodiversity while improving the lives of local residents, this research investigates specific solutions for the sustainable use of bioresources while cooperating with academia and society. It sets forth an appropriate relationship between the environment and humans and a new policy for resource management.
This project is divided into nine components. The following components seek to investigate each local community’s fishing industry and livelihood, environment and ecosystem, and the area’s features: Fishing Gear, Biodiversity, Environment, and Social components. The following components carry out practical research on the relationship between the capability of an area and its relationship with the fishing industry and the environment: Acoustic, Set-net, Stock Enhancement, and Ishigaki and Mikawa components. The General component organizes the concept of Area Capability and coordinates the research activities of each component.
We are conducting surveys to elucidate seasonal variations such as fishing regions and catch, focusing on small-scale fishermen along the Rayong coast in Thailand and in Batan Bay in the Philippines.
The Rayong coast faces the Gulf of Thailand. Crab gill netting, fish basket trapping, squid basket trapping, and angling are carried out in the region. This area of the ocean is strongly affected by seasonal winds during the southwest monsoon season, with days of high waves. On the other hand, Batan Bay in the Philippines is a basin with a narrow, semi-closed mouth. Fishing using set fishing gear similar to Japan’s set-net is carried out in the bay. It is affected in the summer by typhoons and heavy rains.
For research, GPS are attached to fishing boats to track their movements. Fishermen are also asked to record their daily activities in detail. By analyzing these data, the conditions of fishing activities through the year can be clarified. Valuable materials for studying resource management methods for the sustainable use of resource can also be created.
The major field sites of the Biodiversity component are in Thailand, Philippines, and Vietnam. We carry out two primary activities. The first is creating a field guide covering marine fishes caught in the vicinity of Panay Island in the Philippines. This activity will elucidate what species of fish inhabit the environs of Panay Island.
The second primary activity is analyzing the genetic diversity of principal fishery species. There are species uniformly distributed throughout all Southeast Asian coastal regions. There are also regions that differ at the genetic level. Genetic analysis will allow us to understand regional differences and connections for each species of fish, and to discern diverse distribution patterns shown by target species. Through these research activities, we seek to evaluate the richness of ecosystems in Southeast Asian coastal regions from the perspective of fish diversity.
The Environment component is working on research related to evaluating and improving Area Capability from the primary aspects of coastal environments and ecosystems. Small-scale fishery industries such as shrimp and fish in the Panay Island in the Philippines, and in Thailand, shellfish breeding of oysters and Japanese ivory shell in Bandon Bay and set-net fishing in Rayong are characteristic of the fishing and breeding industries in those respective regions. The Environment component is advancing research on the features of the environments and ecosystems supporting these activities in cooperation with other Project components. Specific analytic methods and objects of surveys include composition of trace elements and analysis of strontium isotopes in rivers and streams, water quality and bottom sediment environment, primary production processes (mangrove, plankton, etc.), food webs and trophic levels of catch (ratio of stable isotopes of carbon and nitrogen), chemical contaminants (heavy metals, agrochemicals, petroleum, etc.), and ecological functions of abandoned aquaculture ponds.
The demand for marine products is growing around the world today. As a supplier region, Southeast Asia is increasing in importance. Southeast Asia’s share of the total supply of marine products was 8.3 percent in 2000, but by 2009 the figure had risen to 19 percent (FAO data). Meanwhile, habitats of aquatic organisms in the region are being destroyed. Overfishing has also been observed (Stobutzki et al, 2006). Fishery resources have become an important source of revenue and source of protein in Southeast Asia. Sustaining and increasing fishery resources and adding value to coastal resources are the greatest challenges.
From the standpoint of these issues, the Social component of the Project is conducting research with a focus on (1) management of social capital and resources, (2) sustainable use of resources taking into account high-speed distribution, increasing added-value, and sharing awareness with fishermen, (3) ecotourism based on multifaceted, sustainable use of resources, and (4) the welfare of fishing households.
Fishing with compact equipment in coastal regions is an important industry for securing food in Thailand. Thus we are conducting surveys of the distribution of set-net fishing resources installed within 20 meters of the waters of Rayong City in Rayong Province, Thailand. We also seek to educate fishermen on the methods of acoustic resource survey. The problem with acoustic survey of fish resources is that the species of fishes are unclear with just audio data. Quantitative fish-school detection equipment are expensive. Boats on which the equipment can be installed must be relatively big. The amount of data obtained is vast, and analysis requires a lot of time. A coherent body of knowledge is needed from conducting the survey to processing the data. Thus, if many small boats that are equipped with commercial fish-school detection equipment can use them to quantitatively detect fish, it will be possible to survey fish-school quantity with small boats. Fish-school quantity surveys (surveys of fishery resource quantity) in shallow waters can be carried out. We are creating prototypes of systems that can record audio signal data without modifying commercial fish-school detection equipment and are testing their performance in actual ocean regions.
Thirteen years have passed since Japanese-style set-net technology was transferred to Rayong Province, Thailand, in 2003. Record catches and sales have accumulated as a result. Initially, set-net fishing was carried out with a ten-year permit. Since 2014, the practice has been suspended due to an application to extend the permit. A survey of fishermen groups about this situation showed their strong desire to continue set-net fishing, and steps to restart the practice are being taken with applications to the local government and department of fisheries. As onsite survey activities, since 2012 we have been measuring the current speed of currents and depth of nets in fishing sites. We have also installed anemometers onshore to continually measure wind direction and speed. Besides analyzing net fishing conditions and their relationship with catch results, we have surveyed the distribution of catch into the market and studied its relationship with different types of coastal fishing. In parallel, from 2012 to 2014 we obtained 36 species of major catch and 1030 individual specimen and determined the trophic level of each catch species by analyzing the stable isotope ratio of carbon and nitrogen in muscle slices and stomach contents. In the 11 years from 2003 to 2014, the average trophic level of catch has stabilized at a high level of 3.6 – 3.7, and no sudden changes during this period have been observed. These findings suggest the sustainability of set-net fishing.
The Stock Enhancement component is extending Japan’s created fishing industry to the resident participation-based giant tiger prawn (P. monodon) aquaculture project in Batan Bay, located on the northern side of Panay Island in the Philippines. Some people may consider the purpose of the aquaculture, or stock enhancement, to be that of increasing the quantity of the target resource. However, the true purpose of a created fishing industry, which is fundamentally aquaculture, is not simply multiplying fishes. Instead, it is to foster local people’s interest in biological resources and their environments and to have them conserve habitats through aquaculture to support the growth of organisms, thus empowering them to manage their own resources with their own power.
In Batan Bay, we are working with researchers and local fishermen for all activities, such as nurturing juvenile shrimp before release into the bay, environmental monitoring, and surveys of the effects after release. To date, shrimps have been released six times, and feedback has been obtained from residents. Recently, there have been discussions to release larval fish .
Ishigaki and Mikawa
With the cooperation of local residents, we are conducting research on the coastal regions of Ishigaki Island and Mikawa Bay under the concept of Area Capability to study appropriate relationships between the environment and human beings. We are also utilizing our research findings to carry out practical research on environmental education activities.
On Ishigaki Island, we are conducting surveys on underwater cultural heritage with the collaboration of archaeologists, underwater robot researchers, and divers. We also hold environment classrooms for local high school students to allow them to experience creating and operating underwater robots and activities to increase interest in the sea.
In Mikawa Bay’s Higashi Hazu district, there is an unusual tombolo sandbar that is submerged during high tide and becomes a tract connecting the island and the mainland during low tide. We are conducting survey research on biodiversity and material recycling and holding university lectures on the tombolo. We are compiling our survey results into a field guide for use in environmental classrooms on the sandbar.
Coordination group plays two important roles: 1) Promoting multidisciplinary studies through integration and mutual use of database and information from four components divided by specific fields such as Biodiversity and Environment and four subjects such as Set-net and Stock Enhancement of the project. 2) Preparing a guideline for new research activities adapted to the concept formation of Area-capability, the main focus of this project and its new concept.
As our achievements, so far, we have constructed and operated the database called Acsh , constructed new framework namedArea-capability cyclefor reconsidering community development, and published a guidebook integrating research results from each research components through organizing international symposiums and Area-capability workshops.
We will brush up this Area-capability concept more in the near future.