It’s always very moving and such a privilege to witness the lifting of an Almadraba trap off the coast of Costa de Luz. An early morning start from the port of Barbate is often required as the lifting is timed with the turn of the tide. This year we departed Barbate at 06.45.
To appreciate this ancient form of fishing which dates back to the time of the Phoenicians, you need to appreciate the local history. For thousands of years, each spring, the North Atlantic blue-fin tuna migrate from the cold Atlantic waters into the warm Mediterranean to spawn. Like salmon, they return to where they were born to spawn. To do this, these mighty bluefin pass right by the coast here into the Strait of Gibraltar. They stick close to the coastline because they know their greatest predator, the orca, don’t come close to shore. These mighty fish are hungry because their tummies are so full of eggs and sperm, they have no room for food. This means their journey is like a detox. Prime clean fish, laden with Omega 3-filled blubber.
Nowadays the Almadraba fishing method is completely sustainable, as the apertures of the nets allow for the smaller & younger tuna (as well as any other sea life) to pass through. This annual spring tuna harvest has been the “bread and butter” of the coastal towns of Barbate, Zahara de los Atunes, Conil, and Tarifa since records began. Their economies have suffered greatly due to the overfishing of bluefin in other parts of the world.
Over the centuries these tough fishing communities have become masters of preserving tuna using air, salt, pork fat, and olive oil. Way before refrigeration and canning, they devised ways of preservation that endure to this day. Mojama (air-dried tuna)probably being the most famous.
It’s good to witness the humane & laborious methods with which these tuna are captured. Snorkelers with long stun gun poles strike the tuna specifically between the eyes/top of the head. These majestic stunned fish are then hoisted onto the waiting ice boat where the Japanese method of ike jime is applied. They are then taken to Barbate for freezing at -60deg.
This is a very condensed version of what has to be one of the most intriguing fishing stories in the world. Come with me next year to experience this phenomenal historical connection between man and fish.
Book your spot here for my Almadraba Tour 2024, date not yet confirmed but it will be mid May 2024
Comment from Almadraba client, May 2023
What a lovely time we had. You were a wonderful host and organised the perfect tuna and cultural experience. We have been raving about the trip to our friends ever since. The Almadraba, El Campero and the great tapas tour will live long in our memory, and we are very proud of our new found ability to fillet an anchovy! We are already trying to organise our diaries for next year to fit in another tour with you, maybe to Portugal or Tangiers.Bev, Ian, Alison & Graham, UK