It took us a few moments to work out what he was up to, the man that is not the Oystercatcher! We knew he wasn’t out there for leisure, as whilst the Ria Formosa looks beautiful it is not a stretch of water known for its snorkelling. The blue bucket suggested some type of fishing but we couldn’t think of any fish you’d catch like this. Then he stood up and all became clear.
Have you worked out what he was doing yet? Here’s another shot, focus in on his leg if you are not absolutely certain what he was fishing for.Yes he was fishing for octopi, and quite successfully going by the size of the one I photographed! His technique though seems intriguing, has anyone seen this before? I’ve done a little research on Portuguese octopus fishing and it certainly doesn’t seem to be a common approach here. The Algarvians have been fishing octopi for centuries; traditionally using clay pots known as ‘alcatruz’. Some fisherman still use pots, it is though a slow technique which brings in small catches. The new approach of baited traps, which you will see used in the Algarvian octopus capital – Santa Luzia – dates from the late 20th century and has resulted in much larger landings. Although still not enough to meet demand hence Portugal importing 14,000 tons of octopi in 2014 from Morocco.
As with all fishing around the world there is justifiable concern about the impact modern fishing techniques are having on our oceans. There are regulations on the size of the catch and the number of baited and non-baited pots any boat can take out. However according to one paper I have read the monitoring systems for octopus fishing are considered to be inadequate in Portugal, and so the regulations are not being enforced as well as they should. To make matters worse there is apparently no robust system in place within the EU for monitoring octopi populations. The authors of the paper conclude not only does this mean our seas are at risk of over-exploitation, but for small-scale fisheries here in the Algarve their livelihoods are at risk from unscrupulous large-scale fisheries. We can only hope a sustainable solution is found, however I don’t think that will be snorkelling!
If you enjoy eating octopus and want to support local small scale fisheries visit Santa Luzia in the eastern Algarve. There are some great places to stop for a bite to eat here, the one we’ve been recommended to try is Casa do Polvo. We’ve yet to make it but hope to soon. If octopus is not your thing, then do still visit Santa Luzia. As Jo highlighted a year or so ago it is a pretty village to spend a few hours especially if you like boats! By the way if you are wondering about the wire cages in the photographs, they are shellfish beds. We think probably oysters but are not entirely certain. If you know then do let us know by leaving a comment.