For more than 30 years, fishers in Kesennuma, Japan, are planting trees along the coastal watersheds, and today, science has confirmed the hunch these men of the sea had regarding the intimate link between a healthy forest and a thriving marine life.
“Although the fishers didn’t have any concrete [scientific] evidence, they felt from experience that a major development project in the watershed would change the sea life,” explains Makoto Hatakeyama from the NGO Mori wa Umi no Koibito which means ‘the forest is the sea’s sweetheart.’ “They knew intuitively that a development project would be bad for their oysters.”
More than a century ago – in 1897 to be precise – a law was created to protect a variety of ecosystems, including “fish forests”, thus protecting watershed woodlands that benefited coastal fisheries. This law came after hundreds of years of efforts to conserve its coastal ecosystems vital to fisheries. In 1989, fishers started planting trees along coastal watersheds since they fed into the fishing grounds. A 2021 study concluded that greater watershed forest cover correlates to a higher number of vulnerable fish species in the watershed estuaries studied. “These results may apply to other countries that are or will be experiencing deforestation in the coming decades,” wrote the authors in closing.