The recent extension of their territorial waters to 200 miles by coastal nations promises to have far-reaching effects upon the world's fisheries and opens new perspectives in fishery management. The task of formulating and applying policy in each country will be all the more difficult for lack of practical experience in this new situation. For this reason the Division of Fishery Policy and Planning has decided to prepare a series of technical documents on the principles and various methods of intervention in this domain. Traditional fisheries, however, often possess a valuable heritage of practices and customs of resource exploitation which may remain unknown to both fishery scientists and national administrators. Several reasons for this are:
a) Cultural isolation. Whether one speaks Breton or Tamoul, a similar problem exists: communication with official services is difficult.
b) Geographic isolation. National fisheries are often composed of small groups of fishermen, living on a rocky cliff or a remote island. The difficulty of access increases the difficulties of communication.
c) Economic isolation. Due to geographic isolation, production is dispersed. Usually sold ex-vessel, it never figures in official statistics.
d) Administrative isolation. Because information about production is lacking, the administration has only a limited understanding of the activities of these fishermen.
A fishing community thus isolated organizes and lives of itself. Such a community, composed of the seaweed harvesters of the Léon, is the subject of the current study.
Each of the customs and practices relative to the exploitation, allocation and conservation of seaweed resources may be important in resource management and therefore should be described and interpreted.
The Léon is one of the provinces of Brittany. Due to its linguistic peculiarity and its history as a former bishopric and principality, it is unique among the regions of Brittany.
In this region can be found the greatest abundance of diverse and densely growing marine fauna of the Atlantic littoral. Here, boreal species and those of warmer seas coexist. Here, the southern distribution limits of the former and the northern limits of the latter overlap (Bichard-Breau, 1964).
As fishery resources, these marine plant stocks represent a great advantage: being sedentary and often intertidal, they are more easily exploitable and quantifiable. This abundance of natural attributes makes seaweed harvesting more important in the Léon than elsewhere in France. Today, 90 percent of the national yield comes from North Finistère. Over the years, societies which earn their living by seaweed exploitation have developed a body of laws and customs for the rational organization of this exploitation.
The purpose of this study is to describe these regulations and analyze the reasons for their creation.