MATTANZA IN SICILY
The Tuna in the
tuna meat ranges from low fat and a
vermilion color to a deep red, with strong flavor and fatty flesh in the adult fish. The life span of the
Northern bluefin tuna is estimated between 30 to 40 years.
Part of the Northern bluefin tuna caught in the Californian, Mexican and Eastern Atlantic coasts is sold fresh in
the USA markets, a portion of them are exported to the Asian markets, and some go to American fisheries to be
canned in oil or water.
The Northern bluefin tuna that migrate toward the European coasts pass by the North Sea, the British Isles, the
Canary Islands, then they go to the Mediterranean Sea and move to the Black Sea spawning in the warm waters
following a predetermined itinerary imbedded in their genes.
In the Mediterranean Sea
tuna fishing is done at the end of spring and it
lasts about a month. This is the time when the tuna fish run by the side of the Sicilian coastline towards
the Adriatic Sea and the Black Sea to lay the eggs.
In the nineteen century, in Italy there were over 100 “tonnare”
–tuna fishing complex traps with nets, set along the Italian coasts-, at present the number of tonnare allowed to catch tuna are reduced to three, implementing regulations to
limiting the tuna fishing to save this species from becoming endangered.
In Sicily, one “tonnara” is located at Favignana, a small island
less then 5 miles from Trapani, another is placed in the shore of Bonagia a small
fishing village at the foot of mount Erice near Trapani.
The third tonnara
is located in Carloforte,
in the island of San Pietro near the south-west coast of Sardinia.
In Liguria at Camogli, and in the Adriatic and Tyrrhenian coasts, recreational and commercial tuna
fishing is still active in a very controlled and limited scale.
Fishermen bring the tuna fish to the market to be sold for fresh consumption in restaurants and
The technique of fishing in Sicily and Sardinia is called “Mattanza”, meaning killing or slaughter.
Mattanza is the
final part of tuna fishing by a system of colossal nets extending almost a mile at a 45 degree angle from the shore
or a boa.
Along this net there are a series of chambers made also of net and connected to each other with net doors.
When the tuna going forward finally enters into the last chamber called the “camera della morte”- the death chamber
to be slaughtered, it is lifted by means of big hooks, placed in boats and taken to the cannery.
When a large number of tuna is amassed in the last chamber, the fishermen partially hoist the net so the giant tuna
trying to escape hit each other with their heavy body, the average weight is over 1000 pound, causing injuries and
deep cuts with their sharp tails causing them to loose a lot of blood and strength so they can be easily hoisted to
A multitude of tourist crowd the boats set aside for them to assist this spectacle. The sea is tinted red with the
blood of these beautiful and strong exemplars of the marine fauna; it is an unforgettable display of brutality and
of the need of man to provide for his survival. Returning to the shore, most of the visitors, including me,
had a sad look that promptly disappeared when our host invited all of us for a snack offering bottarga, salted tuna
roe, young cheeses, assorted cold cut, caponatina, local wine, and some delicious cannoli, slices of cassata
Siciliana, and an old Marsala