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The sun rises over the mild waves formed on the waters of the Gibraltar Strait while several boats depart from the harbor of Barbate with dozens of fishermen ready for the days fight. The ring, the Almadraba, which translated from Arab means something like: “the place to fight”. The opponent, one of the most appreciated fishes from the ocean, the Bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus).

Since the Phoenicians and the Roman Empire, more than 2,000 years ago, the Almadraba has been the predominant fishing technique for the Bluefin tuna in the Western Mediterranean Sea. It is not until the industrialization of the fishing fleets, after the second half of the XX century, which makes the Almadraba practically fall in decay.

The Almadraba consists in a labyrinth of walls and chambers created mainly with hemp fishing nets which are anchored to the bottom of the seabed and held up on the surface with buoys. It is a structure of a considerable size, that aims to capture the tunas which enter the Mediterranean Sea following the coastline during the spring spawning season.

It is about midday now, and the fishermen start to move to their working positions following the orders of the Almadraba skipper, after a scuba-diver counts the amount of tunas that are trapped in the net. Little by little, the small boats form a square figure around the net, and start pulling it up. Dozens of hands work frenetically to rise the net, and it does not take long until the tunas, which can weight between 80 and 400 Kg, start to be visible right under the surface of the water. Soon, the tails of these fish start splashing cold watter in all directions in a futile attempt to escape the trap. The blows are so hard that they could brake a man's leg but, as reckless as it may seem, several fishermen jump from the boats onto the net and start their particular fight with the tunas. They tie ropes around the tails and hoist them on board with the help of cranes, where, without delay, a slaughter-man will kill them with a precise stab in the artery to avoid the “yake niku”.

About 60% of the Almadraba captures are exported to the Japanese market, the buttery red flesh of the spring and early summer Bluefin tuna makes it highly appreciated for Sushi and Sashimi dishes. In some cases the tuna will be flown to Japan on the same day, but most of the tunas will be eviscerated and frozen in local facilities or some factory vessel prior to its shipping.

The battle lasts about an hour, and as the boats leave to port with their holds and decks full of captures, a red tinted seawater is left behind them as a remembrance of the brutality of the last fight, remembrance that will last short as the current soon will fade the blood stain into oblivion.

 

 

 

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