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The Tale of Two Swordfish - ITALY

THE TALE OF TWO SWORDFISH

THE TALE OF TWO SWORDFISH

Calabria, Italy  

The following series of pictures show the ancient fishing tradition of catching swordfish in the Strait of Messina. In this very narrow stretch of water that separates Sicily from the mainland, the most popular fish is the swordfish, which every year between the months of May and August travel in pairs from distant polar regions to mate.Like a scene out of the Shakespeare classic Romeo and Juliet, the male will not leave his mate’s side - putting his own life in danger.The fishermen know that once the female has been harpooned, the male will do everything he can to free her. He will not leave the scene without her.“As result, he becomes a very easy target. The female, on the other hand, disappears at the first sign of danger.”The boats used for this type of fishing are called ‘Passerella' or ‘Feluca.' Extending 45 metres out from the front of the boat is a long, light iron bridge. Here, the harpooner takes his position far away from the noise of the boat engine.The hunt begins with the spotters, whose job is to identify the presence of the swordfish and to inform the harpooner.Once harpooned, the fish is given a lot of line and, with it, a temporary illusion of freedom. It quickly dives into deep waters and after a while, weakened from the struggle and loss of blood, it is hauled onto the boat.Swordfish are vigorous, powerful fighters, and when harpooned they become dangerous with their swords. It takes the entire crew to haul the fish and the first thing when in the boat is to cover its eyes to calm it down.From the initial sighting the battle between the man and the beast can typically last around one hour. It depends on the size and the spirit of the fish.Typical catch on a good day could be around 20 swordfish. It is not infrequent however that the fishermen’s efforts go unrewarded.