The Almadraba off Tarifa

by firmm Team

Text and Photos: Pia Schmid

Almadrabas are big, elaborated mazes of nets stretched from the shore into the sea, ending in a central pool. Their purpose is to catch the Bluefin tuna on their way to the Mediterranean Sea to spawn. Fishing with Almadrabas is an old technique and dates back to the Phoenicians; the fishing method therefore has been used for hundreds of years. In former times it was sustainable; it took place on a much smaller scale. Today, fishing is a lucrative business with huge sums of money involved. The Spanish government has a contract with Japan. They get 90% of all the tuna fished here.

Most of the Japanese prefer the meat of pregnant female red tuna for their sushi. Therefore less and less tunas reach the warmer Mediterranean Sea to spawn and as a consequence the population in this area is under serious threat. This cannot be called sustainable any more. Some studies demonstrate that the red tuna might be extinct in the Mediterranean Sea in a few years’ time. People are not aware that they are well on the way to wipe out a species and hence a lot of money will be lost, because in summertime many tourists come to observe the orcas catching the red tuna. This can soon be a thing of the past, unless the animals switch their diet to other prey available in the Strait.

Almadraba off Tarifa Boat takes the tuna fishes from the Almadraba to bring them to the factory vessel 

During my walk along the Atlantic coast I was able to watch the tuna being loaded on the factory vessel, where it is immediately frozen after being cleaned. This spectacle lasted more than 1 ½ hours, before the vessel left in direction north. The following day I heard that 89 tunas, measuring between 2 and 3.5 meters, were loaded onto the vessel. A fully grown tuna can reach a length of up to 5 meters, but there are hardly any fish left that size, because they don’t get the time they need to grow to full extent. I was shocked to see in which quantity these animals where loaded onto the ship.

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