From the four fishing methods that are usually used in Spain to capture the bluefin tuna, probably one of the most controversial, old and spectacular is the Almadraba, a labyrinth of nets anchored to the bottom of the sea bead and lifted with surface buoys. I was witness of a 'Levantá', moment of the maximum climax in this ancient tradition, that is when the tunas are picked up from the net were they are trapped, a tradition that repeats its self since time of the Phoenician.
Between April and August, thousands of the species (Thunus Thynus), pass through the Gibraltar Strait direction to the Mediterranean sea, where the hight temperatures, the high salinity and the water currents help the spawn. But the period of the Almadraba is usually short and goes from April to June.
The capture of tunas by this method is conditioned by many factors: cleanliness, transparency and temperature of the water, the winds, the tides and the phases of the moon. Also by the abundance of the resource, a key factor considering it is a very priced species for fishing companies of all over the world. Since the Almadraba is a fixed fishing technique, it cant increment artificially the amount of captures and depends on the population stability from the tuna more then any other fishing system.
In little more then one hour the “levantá” is done, this is a complex operation that precede the capture of the gigantic bluefin tunas – some individuals can get to way 700 Kilos-. Once they are trapped in the Almadraba, they are manually selected by expert fisherman, a crane hoists them on board while still alive, where they sacrifice them with two clean stabbings avoiding any damages to the body of the animal.
The Almadraba is compatible with a responsible fishing. It is a permanent system of nets, build close to the coast, where, only a small percentage (about the 2%) of the total population of tunas that swim through the strait can be captured. On the other hand, the size of the net does not let smaller individuals below 70Kg. get trapped in it. In fact, the average weight of the captured tunas is about 190 kilos, and these are tunas that are more then 14 years old and have already had an extensive reproductive activity.
The bluefin tuna has a high nutritious value and it is recognized as one of the best foods from the Andalusian coast, this creates a high demand and higher prices. In Japan the bluefin tuna can get exorbitant prices – The record is held by Kiyoshi Kimura, owner of a restaurant, who payed in 2013,, about 1,3 million Euros for a 222Kg. Tuna.- making them an excellent client for the Andalusian fishing companies, who export about the 70% of the captures.
The Andalusian fishing sector has suffered a great deal since in 1998, the European Union considered the wild bluefin tuna as a species in danger of extinction and adopted restrictive measures with a recovering plan, exhaustive fishing controls and a steep reduction in quotas – the lowest ones were in 2012-. Since then, they have been increased little by little and the 657 tons of 2014 have became 774 in 2015, an 18% more. According to the last reports, the bluefin tuna is tarting to recover.
By Xabier Mikel Laburu
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