It was the Oystercatcher that caught my eye

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.Octupus on a Leg!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. dscn1916

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!Octopus Fishing

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.

Author: BeckyB

It had been a good life walking, cooking, photographing, volunteering, blogging, and best of all spending time with MrB, family, & friends. Sadly it no longer is. Suddenly and unexpectedly I have become a widow.

16 thoughts

  1. Fascinating, but all I could think of was how horrible it would feel if an octopus wrapped its tentacles around your leg! An interesting documentary of an usual practice though! I imagine that the name ‘Alcatraz’ was appropriated to birds such as Gannets, Gulls, Pelicans etc. as they all have reputations for having hearty appetites and consume ‘bucket-loads’ of fish?

    1. That’s very true of the name . . . . and yes it sent a shiver down my spine when I saw the octopus around his leg. No way would I want to do that!!

  2. Fascinating! And I wonder if the term for clay pot, ‘alcatruz,’ is related in any way to the infamous American prison, Alcatraz…a clay pot for criminals????

    1. Hee hee I like that…so wish it was true. Unfortunately though the name comes from the Spanish for pelicans….albeit perhaps the bame for pelicans comes from the name for claypots or vice versa?!

      1. Just to confuse things, Alcatraz is also Portuguese for the Gannet, but also seems to be loosely used for Sea gulls and cormorants………! An Alcatruz is a bucket, and is apparently also used as word for the “nora” or bucket well. Perhaps somebody who is fluent in rural Portuguese can clarify! Millers used to tie the clay pots to their sails so that the mill would make music as it went round.

        1. Just to confuse us all then . . . . . 🙂

          And am really not sure about the lay pots on windmills. I like wind-chimes but on a very windy day they can be too much, so goodness knows what claypots on the windmills would be like!

  3. I saw one ‘harvested’ in Greece many, many years back by a man sans wetsuit. He yanked it out of the water, smacked it on a rock a few times and that night calamari and octopus stew was on the menu in the small taverna. Talk about fresh food!

  4. Many thanks for the nudge, Becky 🙂 🙂 Ugh! What a gross thing to do for a living! I felt so sorry for some of the shellfishermen here the other day. The tide was running really fast and there was a coolish wind and they were up to their shoulders in the water, with the waves breaking over them. On a warm Summer’s day it looks quite appealing, but… I don’t even like the wee creatures! They could stay in the sea for me 🙂
    We’ve been so lucky with the weather! The last day or 2 has turned cooler but clear blue skies and still up to 16C on an afternoon. It’s going to be cooler again this week, but you and I know that won’t last long. The blossom is blossoming. Hurry back! 🙂 (I have another restaurant recommend in Tavira but I’ll email it to you)

    1. I know I’m not sure I’d want to do this either… pleased the weather has remained fine for you even if breezy at times.
      It was grey cloud and heavy drizzle when we left this morning so a little coolness still feels perfect when you have these skies ☺
      Ooh exciting about recommendation. I’ll check email later xx

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