Every year, around the month of March, the tunas commence an amazing journey that takes them from the cold waters of the North Atlantic all the way into the Mediterranean sea.
On their way, they all have to pass through Cadiz coastline and the Strait of Gibraltar into the Mediterranean, and this is where all the action happens. Cádiz, one of the most beautiful provinces in Spain, and part of the 8 provinces in Andalusia, has excellent beaches and lovely small coastal villages. Four of them are Barbate, Conil, Zahara de los Atunes, and Tarifa, and the Almadraba tuna fishing method is used here. This is an ancient technique with hundreds of years (Romans already used it, and it comes from the Phoenicians times). The word ¨Almadraba¨ has Arabic roots and means ¨place of killing¨. However, The Almadraba is not aggressive and is respectful of both the species and the environment.
As the fish reach and pass the shores of these 4 villages, fishermen await on their boats by the bay with their huge nets, building a circle between all boats where tunas are selected, caught, killed and pulled in to the boats. Men also jump into the nets and help catching tunas that can be up to 600kg. Only the strongest tunas are caught, whereas the others are returned to continue the journey and help to carry on the future generation.
Watching how the fishermen catch the tuna is quite impressive, and just for a selected few, due to restrictions. The spectacle is impressive, though.
The month of May is considered the best for this, since the tunas have enough fat. And a good amount of all the fishing goes to the demanded and selective Japanese market.
Most towns hold annual tuna festivals throughout May and June, and they´re all worth visiting. Bars and restaurants prepare gourmet delicacies around tuna fish, and the best chefs of the area offer selective red tuna options in all their menus.
It is also quite interesting to learn about the ¨Ronqueo¨, the method through which the Almadraba tuna is skinned and filleted by hand, in a way that nothing is wasted. Many restaurants have experts coming to do live ¨ronqueos¨ during this season. The word ronqueo comes from ¨roncar¨, which means ¨to snore¨ in Spanish. The reason is easy: when experts are cutting the tuna, they use special knives that make a peculiar sound when touching the spine and bones of the fish with the knife as they cut it, and it resembles the sound of ¨snoring¨.
For those wanting to learn more or experience the season of the tuna fish, we can help with private access to fishing boats to see the catching live (very restricted), as well as bespoke itineraries to the finest bars and restaurants along the coast to enjoy the best recipes. Or meet and greet with local chefs and experts, see a ronqueo, or do the local ¨ruta del atún¨ (gourmet tuna routes) with a foodie expert, over the different villages celebrating it in May and June.