Art & culture

Tuna fisheries, an old tradition

The word tonnare (tuna fisheries) refers to the complex of rectangular nets through which the tuna fish are guided once they have been captured.

The word tonnare (tuna fisheries) refers to the complex of rectangular nets through which the tuna fish

are guided once they have been captured,

but also applies to the buildings on the coast where the tuna is processed and stored.

During the 16th-century,

in the area around Trapani,

there used to be eight tuna fisheries.

Today, only two are still functioning,

at the island of Favignana and at Bonagia,

just north of Trapani,

where, between May and June,

the ritual killing of the tuna fish known as mattanza still takes place.

Not much remains of the old tuna fisheries:

a few distinctive protection towers and the buildings and warehouses where the tuna is processed and

stored and the equipment used for catching the tuna is kept.

Some of this buildings have been converted into “state-of-the-art” (maritime museums),

whereas others have been turned into tourist accomodations.

The finest tuna fisheries in Sicily were located on the stretch of coast between Castellammare del Golfo

and just beyond Mazara del Vallo.

Just beyond Castellammare is the perfectly preserved tuna fishery of Scopello,

protected by two lookout towers.

If we proceed further along the coast of the Zingaro Nature Reserve,

we come to the Tonnarella dell’Uzzo,

which operated until the end of the 19th-century.

The nets of the Seco or Sevo tuna fishery were lowered offshore from the tip of the Zingaro reserve.

You can still see the remains of the considerable land complex associated with it:

a factory where the tuna was processed,

the owner’s house, the garden,

a chapel and the Sciere Tower.

Towards San Vito Lo Capo you can see the Torrazzo Tower,

which is still in good conditions.

In the bay of Cofano,

where tuna fishing has been practiced since the 15th-century,

only one tower is still standing.

Bonagia was the land-base of one of the tonnare with a reputation of

bringing in the largest catch.

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