It was a pleasant surprise when some pictures from Sardinia dropped into my mailbox. The pictures were sent to me by Piero Addis and show fishermen from Sardinia (Italy) fishing bluefin tuna with the traditional fish trap called «tonnara». This kind of fish trap is still in use in Sardinia although the decrease in the bluefin tuna stock has led to a decrease in the catches and number of fish traps. There are now only three fish traps left in Sardinia. One of them can be seen below.
The first two pictures show the «Mattanza», the happening when the bluefin tuna is trapped in the last chamber of the tonnara. This has always been an important event for the fishermen in Sardinia.
The net is hauled and the bluefin tuna is forced to the surface where they will be landed into the vessels surrounding the chamber – also referred to as «the chamber of death». The last years there has been a significant decrease in the average size of the fish caught in these traps. While swimming in the tonnara there are still some nice seized bluefin tuna to see.
The use of the traditional traps (tonnare) in Sardinia (southern Italy) can be traced back to the 15th century when the areas were under Spanish influence. The tonnara is a complex fishing gear consisting of nets and chambers. Every year the trap is set out at the same place. A leading net that may be over 1000 meters long leads the fish into several chambers. Illustrasjon: P. Massidda.
The leading net lead the fish to different chambers whereas some can be opened and closed manually. The Italians name the leading net as «the tail» and the part with the chambers is referred to as «the castle». A large number of heavy anchors are used in order to maintain the position of the tonnara.
At the end of the18.th century there were over 25 tonnare in Sardinia. The fishing season lasted from the end of April till the middle of June when the bluefin tuna were migrating along the coastline. The caught tuna end their lives in the last chamber in the trap; the chamber of death (camera della morte). From this part of the trap the tuna is forced to the surface and landed into boats attached to the trap. To the coastal communities this is an important event called «Mattanza». The pictures on this post show this happening in the 1940’s. During this highlight of the catch as many as 100 fishermen may participate. In a single catch there could be several thousands tuna.
The tonnara was emptied 12-15 times during a season and the Mattanza was led by a supervisor; named the «Rais». The pictures on this post shows fishermen from Carloforte (Sardinia). Almost the entire population in this coastal community are participating in the one of the many processes regarding the fishery, work related to the fishing gear, canning, freight, export and so on. Large bluefin tuna were sold fresh for local consumption or canned for export. At the end of the 1960’s there was a significant decrease in the catches for this traditional italian fishery and there are now only three tonnare left in Sardina. In the entire Mediterranean Sea there are believed to be not more than 10 such fish traps left. Photos given by Piero Addis.
The Norwegian senior scientist Leif Nøttestad had a clear recommendation to the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) during a World Symposium on Atlantic bluefin tuna in Santander, Spain this week. The situation for the Atlantic bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus) is critical.
In his presentation Dr. Nøttestad, who is the scientific representative from Norway in ICCAT, recommended three actions: Ban tuna fishing, ban tuna fishing and ban tuna fishing. The main reason for this clear statement is that the bluefin tuna fishing in the Mediterranean Sea is totally out of control. There is a huge over-capacity in the fleet with more than 1000 vessels targeting this extremely valuable fish species only in the Mediterranean Sea. The recommended maximum quota of 15000 tons set by the scientific body (SCRS) of ICCAT in 2006 was not even considered as an option for a future effective rebuilding plan on Atlantic bluefin tuna.
(Dr. Leif Nøttestad at the Institute of Marine Research in Bergen, Norway being interviewed at the world symposium on Atlantic bluefin tuna in Santander this week by Spanish television about the critical situation on the eastern Atlantic bluefin tuna stock.)
All scientific information about the Atlantic bluefin tuna points in a very negative direction, and clear action is critically needed for saving the bluefin tuna stock for a total fisheries collapse and a possible population collapse. For these serious reasons Norway decided to ban fishing on bluefin tuna in its own waters in 2007. The Norwegian quota is put aside for conservation purposes, until the critical situation has improved considerable. Based on the history of several other valuable fish species including the Norwegian spring-spawning herring (Clupea harengus) collapse in the late 1960’s, the only medicine that has worked properly was to ban fishing until the population had sufficiently recovered before any fishing could be re-opened in a sustainable manner.
Photos: afishblog.com (upper) and Arne Saltskår
The northern bluefin tuna (thynnus thynnus) is made for speed. The bluefin tuna is one of the fastest fish in the sea and this makes the tuna an attractive target for anglers. In this post I want to show you some photos taken off the coast of Norway (1970 – 1980). Due to decades of overfishing the bluefin tuna is no longer present along the Norwegian coast. These photos focus on the power of this big fish.
The photo above is taken in 1970. A tuna seiner has trapped a shoal of bluefin tuna. The seine is hauled, but one of the tuna causes problems for the fishermen. The crew tries to free the tuna in order to continue hauling the seine.
The tuna is trapped. The big fish tries to escape, but the strong seine stops them.
The photos on this page are taken in the summer time. Still the crew is dressed as if it was raining. By looking at the photos you’ll understand why. The battle with the trapped tuna was wetter than a shower. The photos below are from july 1980. The bluefin tuna need to swim in order to get enough oxygen – provided by the constant flow of water being filtrated by their gills. When trapped in a seine – unable to swim – the lack of oxygen will make the tuna calm (unconscious). Then it is time to get the tuna on board.
More photos and information about the former bluefin tuna fishery in Norway can be found on these posts: The first catch of bluefin tuna using seine i Norway – 1926 and Fishing bluefin tuna. Photos on this page: Edvin Bakkevik and Arne Saltskår.