Call for discussants: in Osaka 21 July: A U.S.-Japan Fishery Dispute in Alaskan Waters in the 1930s

Yone Sugita's picture

Dear Colleagues:

We will hold an Asia-Pacific Study seminar at Toyonaka Campus, Osaka University on 21 July (Saturday). Mr. Koji Ito of the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign will be a main speaker. We are looking for discussants. Domestic travel expenses will be provided to appropriate discussants. This seminar is conducted in English.  If you are interested, please contact:

Yone Sugita:

Whose Bristol Bay Incident?

A U.S.-Japan Fishery Dispute in Alaskan Waters, the Great Depression, and Shifting International Geopolitics in the 1930s

Koji Ito (Ph.D. Candidate)

University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

Abstract of a Koji Ito’s paper:

This paper discusses the Bristol Bay Incident of 1937-38, a U.S.-Japan dispute over salmon in Alaskan waters. More specifically, this paper examines why the fishery trouble, which originally broke out as a minor, local problem, soon attracted much attention of Americans across geographical lines and finally developed into a crucial diplomatic problem between the U.S. and Japan.

This paper argues that the Bristol Bay Incident meant a significant problem not only for fishing industry leaders but also for the American public and government officials because more than protecting salmon in Alaskan waters was at stake in the fishery dispute. Previous scholars have looked at the Bristol Bay Incident with focus on fishing industry leaders and interpreted that they successfully mobilized the American public, Congressmen and government officials into supporting their goal of excluding Japanese fishermen from Alaskan waters.

 I challenge the predecessors’ explanation that overemphasizes the fishing industry leaders’ influence on shaping the U.S. response to the fishery question. Using unpublished State Department records, this paper shows that the public and government officials proactively reacted to the Bristol Bay Incident based on their concerns about America’s food security, national security, national identity, and access to submarine resources.

This paper also reveals that the Bristol Bay Incident’s development was inseparable from domestic socioeconomic changes caused by the Great Depression and also from international geopolitical shifts produced by Japan’s imperial adventure in Manchuria and China.