As blue fin tuna catches fall dramatically calls come to boycott the trade
By Jenny Kean
IT looks like the grim predictions for Andalucia’s most ancient industry are coming true. One month into the season and catches of blue-fin tuna by the four almadrabas on the Cádiz coast were falling drastically short of last year’s figures.
It’s not just that fewer fish are being hauled out of the ancient netting systems that are currently in place off the coasts of Conil, Barbate, Zahara de los Atunes and Tarifa, it’s that the fish that are being caught are smaller than usual.
It’s early days in the season, and the levante wind has been keeping the fishermen in port more than they’d like, but there’s no getting round the figures: 309 fish caught in the first four weeks at an average weight of 206 kilos each (compared to 1,048 substantially bigger fish last year).
There’s hope that catches may yet pick up before the end of the season, but the figures mark a continuing downward trend that no-one expects to see halted for years to come – if ever.
While the Cádiz almadraba fishermen have been pursuing their traditional (and sustainable) method of catching the tuna, all around them – and particularly in the tuna’s spawning ground, the Mediterranean – the hi-tech competition has been creating an ecological disaster.
Think of it as David versus Goliath. David (the Cádiz almadraba fisherman) uses a complex system of nets (based on a design by the Phoenicians) to ensure that only a sustainable percentage of the migrating adult fish are caught. Goliath (the big-business competition) uses satellite-assisted dragnet trawlers and spotter-planes to indiscrimately hoover up stocks of mature and immature tuna – in defiance of international quota agreements and in pursuit of the Japanese Yen.
In a stark warning issued in March this year, the World Wildlife Fund said the tuna quota system was out of control, with “hundreds of hi-tech boats racing to catch a handful of fish.”
It called for a moratorium on the fishing of the species and on “citizens, chefs and restaurauteurs to boycott any trade and consumption of the species.”
In the meantime, plans for a fifth local almadraba to be set up in Sancti Petri near Chiclana were shelved indefinitely in April. The situation was so alarming, manager of the promoters Pesquerías de Chiclana Pedro Crespo told the Diario de Cádiz, that one of the existing four almadrabas was in danger of sinking.