Catch of 100 bluefin tuna south of Tavira marks start of Algarve campaign

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The bluefin tuna fishing campaign began this week in the Algarve with the capture of 100 fish, the largest weighing 330 kilos, at a fishing trap four kilometers south of Tavira Island.

“It was a day that went well for us. We hope it’s an omen for the rest of the campaign. We caught 100 tuna, most of which always weighed more than 200 kilos. One in particular stood out because it weighed 330 kilos,” Miguel Socorro, director general of Real Atunara, told Lusa.

Real Atunara and Tunipex are the two companies in Olhão that fish for bluefin tuna using the centuries-old method of almadrava, a fishing frame or sustainable fishing gear that, unlike trawling, avoids destroying the seabed and respects the preservation of the species.

The Lusa agency accompanied the first catching operation in 2024 of what is known as bluefin tuna, at the Barril trap, about four kilometers south of Tavira Island, in the Faro district.

The day began at 06:30 in the Olhão fishing port with the arrival and preparation of a team of around 30 people in two boats, which soon after began the journey of around 15 kilometers to the fishing frame.

The almadrava – from the Arabic almadraba – which joins “alma”, meaning place, and “darab”, meaning struggle – is, in this case, a structure supported by anchors and cables, made up of vertical nets that create a sophisticated labyrinth, a trap that catches bluefin tuna traveling towards the Mediterranean.

This art of fishing has existed for over 3,000 years and in 1898, according to historians, there were as many as 18 traps on the Algarve coast. But in the 1950s, the tuna fishing crisis in the Algarve led to the near disappearance of this technique.

The bluefin tuna season usually runs from May to September. In May, bluefin tuna migrate from the cold waters of the Atlantic to the warmer waters of the Mediterranean to spawn, passing through the Strait of Gibraltar. From July onwards, the species makes its way back to the Atlantic.

Asked by Lusa about the difficulties associated with this type of operation, the captain of the fleet and master of the main boat, Rui Ornelas, said that it depends on the sea conditions, admitting that it can sometimes be complicated.

“[…] Because this isn’t work on the ground with stable ground, but there is movement. But as long as everything is structured and organized, things are always the same, they’re always repetitive. So there’s not much difficulty,” said Rui Ornelas, anticipating a good season and that the quota set for catching tuna will be reached.

According to Miguel Socorro, this year Real Atunara will be able to catch 220 tons of tuna, an operation that involves a team of 35 people, mainly made up of sailors, masters and drivers from its fleet of boats and a team of divers.

After years of over-catching, which led to a significant reduction in stocks of the species at sea, tuna fishing was regulated in order to rebuild the stock, and bluefin tuna fishing became a sustainable operation, respecting the animals’ natural cycle and complying with the recommendations of ICCAT (International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas) and European Union directives.

“It’s a product that will be exported 100% of the time and will surely delight the most demanding chefs, who only work with top quality products,” said the director general of Real Atunara.

At lunchtime, the two vessels returned to the port of Olhão, where two TIR trucks were waiting to transport the 100 tuna to customers in Spain.

Bluefin tuna is part of the traditional cuisine of many countries, particularly Japan, and its popularity and price are constantly growing. It is considered a culinary jewel, coveted by chefs in great restaurants and appreciated by consumers all over the world.

Hervé Hubert
Hervé Hubert
Hervé Hubert is a 55-year-old writer and journalist based in Porto, Portugal. Born in France, he brings a unique blend of French and Portuguese perspectives to his work. Education Hervé studied Journalism and Literature at the University of Lyon in France. After completing his studies, he gained valuable experience working with various French media outlets (Portugal France also). Career He worked for several years as a journalist in France before making the move to Portugal. In Porto, he joined the Portugal Pulse team as a staff writer. Skills Hervé specializes in storytelling, investigative journalism, and cultural commentary. He has a flair for capturing complex issues in a relatable way. Personal Life He currently resides in Porto and enjoys the city's rich culture, from Fado music to Francesinha cuisine. Hervé continues to maintain strong ties to his French heritage, often traveling back to France for family visits and cultural exploration. With his unique background and diverse skill set, Hervé Hubert adds a layered, multicultural lens to every story he covers.

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