Enclosing Salmon:

Social-Ecological Resilience and Salmon Aquaculture in Japan

This research examines the rapidly developing aquaculture of salmon and its impacts on Japan’s society and ecosystem. While the bulk of previous studies have focused on how to reduce costs and improve the efficiency of farming technology, little has been researched about the social and ecological implications of salmon aquaculture. We see aquaculture not only as technical and biological innovation but also as a socio-economic enterprise that disconnects salmon from the social-ecological systems (SES) through enclosures. Salmon are both a food commodity in the global food economy and a keystone species in the natural food web. By employing SES analysis, we investigate how the enclosure of a particular species influence the sustainability of existing ecological systems and the governance over its production, distribution, and consumption. This research seeks to integrate the complexity of social-ecological interactions into environmental policy-making that considers the sustainability of both humans and non-humans.


This research examines the emerging salmon aquaculture industry in Japan and its implication for the resilience of social-ecological systems. As capture salmon production has been decreasing every year, Japan’s salmon industry is starting to augment offshore- and land-based farming to the existing hatchery system, the dominant system in Japan. While salmon aquaculture has far-reaching consequences for the fishery industry, the regulatory regime, and the ocean and river ecosystems, little social science research has been conducted to understand how this new technology is impacting the resilience of social-ecological systems. This research examines how this shift in salmon aquaculture is transforming both the existing ecosystem and the social relations around salmon. This research seeks to add the important dimensions of resilience, global food economy, and environmental ethics to the study of salmon aquaculture operating within the complex social-ecological relations.

The purpose of this research is to understand the emerging aquaculture industry and its impact on social-ecological resilience. Conventionally, poor harvest of salmon has been understood as a problem of scarcity caused by open access and overfishing, thus resulting in the tragedy of the commons (Hardin 1968). Japanese society, along with much of the world, has addressed the problem of the fishery stock depletion by forming fisheries cooperatives (through licenses and monitoring poaching) and developing technology to increase stocks. While successful, these approaches have advanced the commodification of salmon, social inequality, and ecological degradation. We argue that the transition from hatcheries to farming is a longue durée process that addresses the scarcity problem by enclosing salmon, segregating it from its native ecosystem of seas, rivers, and forests, and creating a controlled space for the production of market-ready commodities for human consumption.

This project is a collaboration between Dr. Takeshi Ito and Dr. Takehiro Watanabe from the Faculty of Liberal Arts, Sophia University.

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