This summer, I had the opportunity to intern for a group called Sailors for the Sea Japan. It is an NGO based in Minatomirai that tackles issues of ocean conservation. During the first few weeks, I would attend meetings and takes minutes. It did help me reach out to other NGO’s and be involved in a debate that was significant especially for an island like Japan that is surrounded by water. But, I realized that the ocean is connected. For example, I saw an article that stated about radiation from the Fukushima nuclear power plant has traveled in the sea and has been detected on the coast of California. This made me question a lot of the things surrounding my life. What influences from the ocean are unconsciously affecting our daily life.
By engaging in different cultures, I realize that Japan consumes a lot of different species of fish. When we go to the supermarket, we see aisles of sashimi. This is part of our culture. But, what supports this culture is myriad business overfishing and bringing species to mass extinction. There’s no consumer awareness that tuna, a vital part of our Japanese culture, has been consumed at alarming rates in the past 20-30 years. In fact, in the past 20-30 years, we have consumed 96% of the tuna available in the ocean. There’s no consumer awareness that we have consumed 99% of Japanese eels available in the past 20-30 years. Because of this, it is now considered “endangered” according to the Red List. These are things I would’ve not known without the internship and my international background.
To tackle these issues, I have created presentations in English on behalf of Sailors for the Sea Japan to try to raise awareness. I have looked into what other fish-eating cultures have done to tackle this discrepancy in the supply and demand chain. The EU, for example, have member nations such as Spain, that are mass fish-eating countries. In 2012, the EU invested 155 million Euros to ban catching Tuna. Since then, the population of tuna had more than tripled. For later generations to be able to consume the same foods as us, we need to start knowing what supports our life.
On top of issues regarding fishery, there are issues of pollution that we need to tackle. Pollution can be separated into four types: ocean trash, oil spill, water discharge, and radioactive contamination. I deemed that oil spills, water discharge, and radioactive contamination are issues of large businesses around the world. I knew I had to start with something smaller, something I can continue after school has started. So I looked into ocean trash. Coincidentally, an issue that I addressed in my personal project. I attended meetings regarding household plastics ending up in the ocean and affecting the marine ecosystem. So I took action. The institution contacted the Inter-Continental hotel in Minatomirai, and we started to abolish single-use plastics straws. In preparation, I was responsible for researching various laws regarding plastic straws around the world. For example, the EU is aiming to abolish all plastic straws by the end of 2030, and four states in America have monetary sanctions of up to 1000 dollars for companies that use plastic straws to serve to costumers.
The proposal was a success in that they changed to sustainable straws made by corn despite making it 0.6 yen more expensive than the original. To extend from this experience, I have made individual inquiries to various organizations to make proposals about sustainable use of straws. I will be heading to Tokyo American Club this month to make a business proposal about sustainable straws to the board so we can all strive for an eco-friendly community that doesn’t pollute.