FUKUOKA – The Fukuoka High court on Wednesday upheld a lower court ruling doubling the monetary penalty imposed on the state for refusing to open the flood gates of the Isahaya Bay dike in southwestern Japan, further complicating the situation caused by a controversial government reclamation project.
The high court turned down an appeal from the central government against a decision by the Saga District Court in March ordering the state to pay ¥900,000 per day (about $7,300), or ¥20,000 per fisherman, raising the amount from the earlier ¥450,000 per day, or ¥10,000 per fisherman.
The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries has so far paid ¥189.9 million to the fishermen through Wednesday. The state immediately appealed the high court ruling to the Supreme Court.
The sluice gates were closed in 1997 as part of a controversial state reclamation project completed in 2008 to create farmland in Nagasaki Prefecture despite opposition from fishermen in neighboring Saga Prefecture.
In 2010, the Fukuoka High Court ordered the state to open the floodgates for five years to see if there is a link between the project and poor fish catches in the Ariake Sea, where Isahaya Bay is located.
In a contradictory move, the Nagasaki District Court issued a provisional injunction in November 2013, ordering the central government not to open the floodgates as requested by farmers worried about salt damage from the inflow of seawater.
The state has been in the unusual position of having to pay penalties whether or not it opens the floodgates. The Supreme Court said in January the government is obligated to pay both fishermen and farmers, noting the contradicting obligations ordered by lower courts are both valid.
In April 2014, the Saga District Court ordered the state to pay ¥490,000 a day to fishermen until it opens the floodgates. The figure was later changed to ¥450,000 a day.
In June that year, the Nagasaki District Court ordered the state to pay ¥490,000 a day to farmers if it opens the gates.