Japan Top Court Finalizes Ruling to Keep Isahaya Bay Gates Closed

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Gates are seen in the Isahaya Bay in April 2014.

TOKYO (Jiji Press) —Japan’s Supreme Court has finalized a high court ruling that floodgates built as part of the Isahaya Bay land reclamation project in Nagasaki Prefecture, southwestern Japan, can remain closed.

The Third Petty Bench of the top court, presided over by Justice Yasumasa Nagamine, ruled in favor of the government, rejecting local fishers’ appeal against the Fukuoka High Court ruling handed down last year.

The top court made the decision by consensus of all five justices, effectively resolving the tangled legal situation involving court rulings with conflicting orders to open the gates and to keep them closed.

In 2010, Fukuoka High Court ordered the government to open the gates for five years. The ruling became final after the government decided not to appeal. As the government did not open the gates, however, it was required to pay money to the fishers.

In 2013, Nagasaki District Court issued an injunction against the opening of the gates, accepting local farmers’ demand.

To resolve the tangled situation, the government filed a lawsuit in 2014 to nullify the 2010 ruling that ordered the gates to be opened.

After Saga District Court dismissed the lawsuit, the Fukuoka court overturned the decision in 2018, citing the expiration of fishing rights on which the petition to open the gates was based.

In 2019, the Supreme Court sent the case back to the high court, saying that the expiration of fishing rights did not provide sufficient grounds to invalidate the 2010 ruling.

The high court backed the nullification of the 2010 ruling again last year, saying that damage to fishing operations has diminished in the long period since the completion of the dike, and that fishers’ demand to force the state to open the gates would constitute abuse of their rights.

The high court also noted that the government had already paid some ¥1.2 billion to them.