The tuna fishery between tradition and environmental protection

Tuna fishing has ancient origins and the tuna traps (“tonnara”) have been important productive realities in Italy for centuries. Talking about “tonnara” means recalling the memory of bloody fishing for tuna. However, this activity has been disappearing in recent years and today the tuna are selected before being fished, unlike the massive and uncontrolled fishing systems of the past.

In Italy the ancient tradition of tuna fishing of Arab origin is still carried on. Fishing still done by hand, repeating ancestral gestures under the expert guidance of the “rais“, the crew chief who directs all the operations necessary to catch the tuna. The tradition, however, had to adapt over time, especially as regards the quantity of the catch. In fact, today tuna fishing is not allowed; what is made is a concession given through quotas to a few subjects. There are 5 fixed tuna traps currently authorized to fish in Italy, 4 of which are in Sardinia and one in Sicily, in Favignana.

The Ex Tonnara Florio in Favignana was one of the oldest and most important tuna processing plants in Italy. It is located in Favignana, in the Egadi islands and here the last tuna trap dates back to 2007.

The plant covers approximately 32 thousand square meters. A series of large covered halls take place, different in size and intended use: offices, warehouses, carpentry, workshops, changing rooms for men and changing rooms for women, holds, boat shelter, rooms with ovens for cooking the tuna and three tall chimneys.

The former Florio factory, built in 1880, is today a jewel of industrial archeology. Here the equipment, anchors and boats of the tuna fishery are kept. You can discover with a guided tour how the nets were prepared to fish for tuna and how the meat was then processed, in a center so avant-garde that it even had a kindergarten for the children of the workers. Inside, a space is used as a museum, with multimedia rooms, historical films on the slaughterhouse and the tuna trap. The exhibits include an archaeological museum that houses artifacts found in Egadi islands (such as amphorae of various types and historical periods); a small section dedicated to the Florio family, two multimedia installations of great effect where the testimonies of the people who worked in this plant are collected. And also a series of educational panels on fishing and tuna processing, the creation and installation of large panels graphics and photographs illustrating the most significant moments and activities of the tuna trap. The oil room where the “cans” where the tuna was canned are displayed. Inside the complex a 400-seat conference room has been created, air-conditioned and fully furnished and equipped, alongside a large reception area.

The former Florio factory is the most sustainable “tonnara” in Italy. In fact, the nets are lowered into the sea to monitor the presence of tuna and count its individuals, while fishing is more a tourist experience and historical re-enactment, in which the “rais” dictates the times of fishing, while the ” tonnaroti ”(sailors) are ready to hoist their catch on the boats. Only adult specimens of tuna remain in the nets, while the small ones can go away.