Although customary marine tenure (CMT) systems for the management of local marine resources occur throughout the world, compared with other models of fisheries management they remain relatively little known. The Pacific Basin is especially rich in CMT systems, which play key roles in overall social, economic and cultural life of societies. They have the potential to provide sustainable yields and equitable access to resources, have resilience to external pressures, and mechanisms for ensuring local autonomy in resource control. CMT systems are an expression of traditional ecological knowledge, and show the importance of such knowledge to scientific research and the planning of resource management.
Through a rights system and membership in local cooperative associations, Japanese coastal fishermen have legally guaranteed suitable access to and 'ownership' of the living aquatic resources in their tenured waters. Contemporary Japanese coastal sea tenure involves time-honoured village customary procedures that have been incorporated into modern legislation. Among other things, these complex and locally varied systems consist of the intimate interplay of community rules of conduct, local social sanctions and the interpersonal behaviour of fishermen with the formal institutions.