A Bit of History

Fishing in Monterosso

 

Fishing and agriculture have always been the most important activities for local economy.

Beyond the famous dry-stone walls and the terracing, beyond the olive and lemon trees, Monterosso has always been a village of fishermen, very numerous and active.

It was usual to see our beaches covered with fishing nets and next to them it was usual to see the fishermen sleeping after a busy night, waiting for the nets to dry.

 

Very often the beaches were not large enough to fit everyone’s nets therefore it became necessary to set priority rights: there was a “first”, a “second” and a “third” priority; the first to come back from the fishing were obviously the first to spread their nets under the morning sun.

The introduction of nylon as the main material to manufacture fishing nets has been a turning point in the history of Monterosso, not only for the improvement brought to the strength and resistance of the nets but also for having helped the compatibility between fishing and tourism.

With Monterosso becoming more and more popular among tourists, the beaches would have been a source of conflict between the necessities of fishermen and the expectations of visitors.

 

Monterosso is particularly lucky because of its habitat, which favors the use of gillnets even very close to the coast, something that fishermen in other areas really envy as they often have to sail for many miles before reaching their fishing zone.

Also, the presence of Posidonia combined with our rocky grounds guarantees an excellent marine habitat and a large variety of fishes in the tract of sea in front of Monterosso.

The amount of fishes living in this area and the health of the sea didn’t really improve during the years but we have to say that the depletion of marine fauna in this region is way lower compared to any other area nearby Monterosso, that because of the choice made by local fishermen to practice a less-invasive fishing which respects the sea environment.

Credit should be paid to those who were here before us, we simply decided to follow the footsteps of our fathers and keep fishing with small boats and small nets, favoring the longline fishing, the Lampara and the gillnets.

 

Fishing Techniques

 

As said, fishing in Monterosso has always been done with gill and longline nets, with the oily fish being the main target of this activity, especially anchovies.

Until early ‘60s fishing nets were made with cotton, since then they have been replaced by nylon-made nets; the main technique to capture anchovies was using the gill nets: depending on the season and the weather, a specific area is targeted and the fishermen release their nets as a vertical wall straight to the floor, hoping that as many fishes as possible get stuck in the net.

The first Lampara made its apparition in 1929 and since that nets gradually started to change from simple gillnets to encircling gillnets.

 

The difference between those two kinds of fishing nets is mainly one: if the simple gillnet was meant to act as a fix hurdle which prevents fishes to escape once they get stuck, no matter how hard they fight, the encircling gillnet creates a sack all around the fishes to catch them in a more delicate way, avoiding any damage to the aspect of the fish itself.

Until late ’50s it was mandatory to clean and dry the fishing nets under the sun as, being made with cotton, they could have quickly lose their effectiveness if not cleaned and dried on daily basis.

Longline fishing was really hard in those days as the nets were made with rough thread and less-effective that the nylon-made we are using today and the fishermen used to leave around 3am to come back only after the sunset, spending the whole day under the hot, summer sun.

 

With no fridges or iceboxes on board opposite to what we have today, their only relief was a large demijohn of water kept as fresh as possible.

 

 

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