Professor of Practice, School of Marine and Environmental Affairs, University of Washington
Director, Ocean Nexus Center at EarthLab, University of Washington
Dr. Yoshitaka Ota has a background in social anthropology at the University College London. He has conducted ethnographic research on various coastal communities, including Palau, UK, Indonesia and Japan, studying socialization and cultural meanings associated with fishing practices. He is also director of the Nippon Foundation Ocean Nexus Center, an international initiative comprising an interdisciplinary team of 20+ institutes and cross-disciplinary scholars. As an anthropologist conducting social and cultural research on various coastal communities, one recurring theme he has witnessed across the world is the inequity between who has access to and benefits from oceans and who relies on oceans to live. We know that the human relationship with oceans under modern market systems is unsustainable, unstable and inequitable. We hear that in stories about overfishing and plastic straws and coral reef. What we do not often see are the human stories about the ocean communities that are already facing urgent ecological, social and political problems, even before complex environmental challenges are layered on. We are not in the rooms where scientists and leaders make political and societal decisions to the best of their ability, but without the capacity to not further disadvantage the marginalized and the disempowered. We need to create a new platform for ocean governance to identify the inequities that exist, develop knowledge-based solutions, and actually enact these changes to make oceans equitable for everyone.