Especially for the lobster resource, in the Antilles there is a major component of direct sales from fishermen to foreign buyers who are exporting lobsters directly to adjacent countries or to private consumers, hotels, etc. This in itself is not a bad thing, but the sources of greatest concern are that:
(a) This makes it difficult to accumulate good statistics on this market, or the landings;
(b) the unrestricted sales and rising prices that will result from a high, unsatisfied demand as the lobster fishery becomes overfished, will cause yet higher levels of fishing, and may soon, or already has, seriously damaged the resource.
One approach to monitoring and controlling this process is by means of registration of both fishermen and dealers who are authorized to sell lobster, and by a ban on the sale of lobsters (and preferably also on their capture) by individuals who are not registered in this way. A supplementary regulation allowing export only by those individuals having an export licence is feasible, but would tend to encourage smuggling, and penalize fishermen in favour of a few licensed individuals, given the relatively unorganized marketing system. Although there is no intention here to prevent authorized fishermen from selling directly to customers, it is suggested that the onus be placed on the purchaser to obtain a sales slip from the dealer or fisherman on purchasing lobsters. A book of sales slips could be issued to each accredited fisherman or dealer, with three copies: one to be retained by the purchaser (and shown if leaving the country with lobsters), one kept by the fisherman/dealer, and one to be collected by government extension workers, as a basis for statistical monitoring of the fishery. Initially, it might be wise to just introduce this system for export sales, and then only after an appropriate period of advertisement should exporters not having purchase slips be penalized. Full consultation with fishermen as to the purpose of this system will be necessary.
A typical sales/purchase slip is shown in Figure 4; here the design of the slip allows it to be used for controlling:
Figure 4 One possible design of a book of purchase/sales slips for issue to accredited dealers/fishermen
(a) purchases from fishermen by dealers, in which case the licence number of the fisherman selling the lobster is recorded; or
(b) sales to the public by either dealers or fishermen, in which case the preprinted number of the dealer (who may be a fisherman) and the ticket number identify the individual sale, and the space for “Fisherman No.” is left blank.
Some regulations that will help ensure that reliable catch data are recorded are:
(1) Dealers who are not also fishermen in possession of lobsters without corresponding sales/purchase slips will be infringing the regulations, unless evidence of importation is shown.
(2) Any exporter of lobsters must show a valid sales slip, unless evidence of importation is shown.
(3) Any retail business or hotel in possession of more than 10 kg. of lobsters must show corresponding purchase slips, unless they can show that the lobsters were imported.
Obviously, discussion of the possible ramifications of this scheme within the appropriate department of fisheries, and with local authorities, is necessary preceding implementation. For some fishermen a literacy problem may exist that requires the sales slip to be as simple as possible. There may be a problem in showing price of purchase or sale on the slip in convincing fishermen that this data is not being collected for fiscal purposes. The possible impact of this will need to be carefully considered on the viability of the scheme.
It should be stressed that this scheme is not designed to impede direct sales by fishermen, although a system of dealers, at least for sales to non-nationals, will ensure that a fair price is obtained for the product, that in part reflects the final sales price to consumers in the importing countries.
NB: If considered appropriate, this approach could be extended to other uses, e.g., conch, turtle or even reef fish, but it is suggested that a trial period in a limited area should be considered before widespread adoption, to pick up possible problems.