The racer of the sea
Tuna fishing in Carloforte is made with nets according to a practice already used in Sardinia by Phoenicians, Romans and refined in the fifteenth century by the Spaniards. Mattanza is a strategic ritual, a battle fought in the sea in the months from April to June. It all begins with a propitiatory prayer of fishermen (about forty). They pray the Madonna and the Holy Spirit in order to receive Providence and “na bugna pesca”, a good fishing of the delicious tuna that populate the area: thunnus thynnus (bluefin tuna), the most appreciated fish of the Mediterranean and the only one that is still being fished according to a five hundred year old tradition: la mattanza.
Carloforte’s tonnara is the only one still active in the Mediterranean area. In the tonnara tunas are fished and processed according to traditional methods, bluefin tuna, the runner of the sea, is characterized by red and fat meat. Big shoals of tuna arrive from the Atlantic to spawn in the warmer water of Mediterranean (where surface temperature is among 22-23 degrees). Because they move in shoals their routes are predictable and they can be led to the first stage of fishery, when they are forced to enter in the grande camera (big chamber) in which they are trapped. Once entered they spread across the other chambers because they can’t come back. The chambers are arranged in a row linked one to another with a system of fixed nets. When the rais (head of tonnara), from his tiny boat the musciara, feels that enough tunas has entered the trap, and only if the weather is good, he orders to led the tunas into the camera della morte (chamber of death), where the mattanza begins .
These huge pelagic predators can be distinguished from other tunas by their color: dark blue above and gray below, with a gold coruscation covering the body. Their highly nutritious meat are red because of the blood vessels, bluefin tuna possesses one of the highest blood hemoglobin concentrations among fish. They usually stay in deep water far from the coasts and they get closer only for reproduction: in the hot water of Mediterranean tunas reach sexual maturity and they spawn in Summer.
Bluefin tuna is appreciated among chefs from all over the world, particularly in Japan, where every year about three-quarters of the whole yield of this species is consumed. Bluefin tuna is an endangered species and European Parliament has approved a regulation to preserve it. Every European Country has a maximum annual yield of bluefin tuna, in order to avoid indiscriminate fishery that would lead to species’ extinction.