The purpose of this paper is to discuss methods of geographical research of fishing communities from the viewpoint of economic geography. The problem of the use of sustainable resources is now one of global concern. Japanese coastal fisheries are noteworthy examples of the success of natural resource management, as supported by the following two facts. One is the unique Japanese fishery policy called gyogyo-ken, that is the system of fishery rights. The other is the stability of the fishing yield by the coastal fisheries, which has been around 2 billion tons from the 1910s to the 1990s, with the exception of the period of the Second World War. However, there has not been a great deal of geographical research on fishing communities. One of the major reasons for this is the obsolescence of conventional research methods. To overcome these problems and succeed in advancing our empirical studies, research methods should be evaluated. This paper has three main sections. The first is related to regional and economic change in Japanese rural areas and the effects that these have had on fishing communities compared with agricultural communities. The second major section reviews existing research on fishing communities conducted by geographers, economists, and sociologists. In particular, the development of research methods in each of these fields is the focus of this study. The third section evaluates differences among geographic, economic and sociologic studies and identifies the distinctive features of geographical research, and explores ways to research fishing communities. After WWII the economy of Japan developed remarkably. In rural areas, agriculture and fisheries, which were the main industries before the era of rapid economic growth, became a depressed sector, and the number of people involved in agriculture and fishing decreased. However, it is considered that the processes which took place in fishing communities are not the same as those which occurred in agricultural ones, because the conditions were different in each. People who worked in fishing did not have the opportunity to engage in a subsidiary business; on the other hand, people engaged in agriculture did. The major concern of geographical research of fishing communities has been to understand the processes of change and explain the spatial differences in fishery communities. Its distinctive feature since the early studies is that geographers regard a local phenomenon as being specific to time and space. Until the 1970s, however, their analyses were provided at the aggregated level and paid little attention to the concrete actions of people living in fishery communities. After the 1980s, the behavioral approach was introduced and clarified what former studies had ignored. However, this new study, depending on the behavioral approach, also needs to be evaluated. First, there are problems with time. This new research was analyzed based on temporal data. The use of longitudinal data is needed to understand the process of changes in fishery communities. A second problem is that they paid little attention to social relations. To understand the process of change in fishery communities, it is also important to explore social relations because these relations influence individual actions. The geographical methods used to study fishing communities are then classified into four categories as follows: 1. Temporal and individual: individual behaviors in a fishing community are analyzed using temporal data. 2. Temporal and organizational: organizational behaviors in a fishing community are analyzed using temporal data. 3. Dynamic and individual: individual behaviors in a fishing community are analyzed using longitudinal data. 4. Dynamic and organizational: organizational behaviors in a fishing community are analyzed using longitudinal data. Based on the above, research included in type 4 should be advanced because it can clarify the reality, dynamism, and mechanism of a variety of fishery communities in specific time and space and can obtain practical knowledge that can be useful to the fishing industry and to regional policy.
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