Spanish fishermen in the Strait of Gibraltar have kept alive a 3,000-year-old netting tradition that brings in tuna so tasty, buyers come for it all the way from Japan.
Silence falls as the fishermen on board their orange and blue boats stop calling out to each other and switch their engines off, to examine the surface of the water.
Four divers jump in. Their mission is to alert the boat crews when the 200kg bluefin tuna swim into the nets.
The fishermen wait to trap their prey in an “almadraba,” a system of nets stretched across the water off a beach in Zahara de los Atunes, on the southern tip of Spain.
The tiny resort is named after the tuna that have been caught here in this stretch of water since the Phoenicians ruled the Mediterranean from about 1200 BC.
The tradition survives, despite the threat from overfishing by industrial trawlers.
Each year, bluefin tuna swim through the strait from the bitter cold of the Atlantic Ocean into the warmer Mediterranean to lay their eggs.
Fishermen lay the almadraba to create a submarine system of chambers that trap the biggest of the migrant fish.
At last a diver pulls at the rope and cries out: “Haul it up!”
With pulleys they draw the tight mesh up to the surface of the waves, the silver-red scales of dozens of giant tuna fish glittering in the sunshine.
Several men jump into the nets and kill the fish with knives, turning the blue waves red.
“We bleed the tuna to stop them suffering and to get the best quality possible,” Rafael Marquez, a 45-year-old almadraba fisherman, said.
If the fish feel fear, he says: “They give off a substance that spoils the flesh.”
This fish bloodbath has prompted shock and criticism, but the Almadraba Producers’ and Fishermen’s Organization insists the tradition respects the environment.
“We were the ones who raised the alarm, along with the environmentalists” in the early 2000s about the harm done to tuna stocks by mass trawling, said Marta Crespo, the organization’s deputy leader. “If the fishing were done only using almadraba, there would as much tuna in the sea as sand on the beach.”
The Spanish biologists’ and naturalists’ association Hombre y Territorio says that it considers the almadraba a form of “sustainable fishing.”
“Its 3,000-year history shows that the almadraba is sustainable,” Crespo said. “It is the most ancient fishing art in the West.”
An international plan launched in 2006 has saved the bluefin tuna from overfishing for the time being and stocks have recovered, she said.
That led countries to raise quotas for fishing in the Mediterranean and Atlantic this year for the first time since 2007, to about 16,000 tonnes — of which 700 tonnes are for the almadrabas.
At the Frialba factory on the waterfront in Barbate, a dozen employees await, armed with hooks and knives as the boats come back with 60 tonnes of tuna on board.
With swift strokes they slice off a tuna’s head and tail and part it into four huge fillets of deep red, for storing at minus-60oC.
Japanese buyers run from one fish to another, choosing the fillets they want to send back home.
Bluefin tuna from the almadrabas is “number one in the world for quality,” says Hori Mi-Zu Yosuke, director of the Japanese tuna company Sirius Ocean.
In the 1980s more than 90 percent of the tuna caught by the three fishing companies in the organization was sold in Japan, but now young local companies are selling a bigger share — about 30 percent of the catch — in Spain itself.
“Tuna is everything to us, to this area. It creates lots of jobs,” said Andres Jordan, head of one such company, Gadira. “It is the cream of the ocean.”
The wholesale price is about 12 to 14 euros (US$13 to US$15.30) a kilogram, but the retail customer will pay up to 45 euros per kilo for the prized tuna belly.
When salted and dried, it retails for up to 100 euros a kilogram.
Slicing in the Frialbad factory gives Jesus Cota, 38, an appetite. After work he orders a serving, straight up in the Japanese style.
“I love fresh raw tuna,” he says. “It is red gold.”
NO VIRUS BLUES: A SEMI Taiwan official said that the virus does not slow down the global semiconductor industry’s investment in manufacturing equipment The production value of the nation’s semiconductor industry is expected to grow 16.7 percent this year from last year, outpacing the global industry’s 3.3 percent growth, industry association SEMI said yesterday. That would help Taiwan safeguard its second spot in the global semiconductor market with a production value of more than NT$3 trillion (US$102.73 billion), SEMI Taiwan president Terry Tsao (曹世綸) told a media briefing in Taipei for the Semicon Taiwan trade show beginning today. The global semiconductor industry’s production value is expected to increase to US$426 billion this year, SEMI said. In terms of semiconductor equipment investment, equipment billings from Taiwanese firms
Intel Corp has received licenses from US authorities to continue supplying certain products to Huawei Technologies Co (華為), a company spokesman said yesterday. Washington has been pushing governments around to world to squeeze out Huawei, saying that the telecom giant would hand data to Beijing for espionage. From Monday last week, new curbs have barred US companies from supplying or servicing Huawei. This week, the state-backed China Securities Journal reported that Intel had received permission to supply Huawei. China’s Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp (SMIC, 中芯國際), which uses US-origin equipment to make chips for Huawei and other companies, last week confirmed that it had sought
INVEST IN TAIWAN: A metal components casting firm and the world’s largest maker of aluminum bicycle rims also obtained approvals to join the program Solar Applied Materials Technology Co (SOLAR, 光洋應用材料), a part of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co’s (TSMC, 台積電) “green supply chain,” has pledged to invest NT$1 billion (US$34.1 million) to build a new plant at the Tainan Technology Industrial Park (台南科技工業區), the Ministry of Economic Affairs said yesterday. SOLAR has been collaborating with TSMC to extract precious metals from waste and reuse them as “sputtering target” material in high-end semiconductor manufacturing, a TSMC press release issued in May said. Established in 1978, SOLAR also offers key materials and integrated services to customers in the optoelectronics, information and communications technology, petrochemicals and consumer electronics industries,
‘SWARM TECH’: Joint venture FARobot is to develop autonomous mobile robots that would first be deployed in Hon Hai’s factories to optimize production efficiency Hon Hai Precision Industry Co (鴻海精密) and Adlink Technology Inc (凌華科技) have formed a robotic venture that aims to use “swarm technology” to create robots that can communicate with one another on the factory floor to optimize production efficiency. Hon Hai is Apple Inc’s leading iPhone assembler and the world’s largest contract electronics maker, while Adlink supplies industrial computers and Internet of Things solutions. Through a subsidiary, Hyield Venture Capital Co (鴻揚創投), Hon Hai holds a 51 percent stake in autonomous mobile robot (AMR) developer FARobot (法博智能移動), while Adlink owns the remaining 49 percent. Together, the two companies put up NT$200