Professor Yoshitaka OTA
Director of the Ocean Nexus Program
Research Assistant Professor, School of Marine and Environmental Affairs
University of Washington
Dr. Ota has a background in social anthropology at the University College London. Yoshi has conducted ethnographic research on various coastal communities, including Palau, UK, Indonesia and Japan, studying the socialization and cultural meanings associated with fishing practices. For the last ten years, he has been engaged in policy research involving coastal indigenous communities, marine spatial planning and human security.
Dr. Ota is also the director of the Nippon Foundation Ocean Nexus Center, an international initiative comprising an interdisciplinary team of 20+ institutes.
As an anthropologist conducting social and cultural research on various coastal communities, he was struck more by our similarities than our differences. 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. Thus, his core research interest is to understand how to strengthen social equity in ocean governance while we face global environmental changes. His unit consists of a team of cross-disciplinary scholars.