Fishing techniques

reti pesca fishing

Historically Italy has always had the largest EU fishing fleet in the Mediterranean, both in terms of gross tonnage and number of vessels. They use all types of fishing techniques: from large surrounding nets for tuna, gillnets for mullets and cuttlefish, to trawler fishing, which is the most important method used in Italy. One of the problem is that fishing fleets have been searching for alternative areas. As coastal zones (up to 800 meters deep), which are naturally richer and more populated by species with shorter life cycles, are showing signs of crisis, fleets are tending to fish further away and to greater depths (as much as 2000 meters). But bathyal zones (deep-sea zones) are extremely delicate environments, due to the absence of light and the lower temperatures, along with the different pressure under which long life cycle fish live where it is not possible to recover from overfishing.



Trawling is an important activity in Italy, both in terms of catch quantity and vessel numbers (which account for about 30% of the total fishing fleet). Bottom trawling can be carried out at depths greater than 50 meters and/or at distances more than three nautical miles from the coast, using various gears according to tradition and local knowledge. The main species caught using trawl nets are: red shrimp, rose shrimp, scampi, mantis shrimp, red mullet, hake, pandora, white seabream, sole, monkfish, rays, smoothhound, cuttlefish, squid, musky octopus, octopus. However many species, including those at risk of extinction, are accidentally caught and then thrown back into the sea, often already dead. These collateral losses, known as discards, can reach up to 80% or even 90% of the total catch.

The new European regulations have changed the depth and distance requirements: they were understood to apply separately, and it was sufficient that one of the two legal requirements was observed. However from 2008, trawling was not permitted at less than 1 ½ miles from the coast, independently of the depth reached.

Trawling is also the method most frequently accused of illegality, particularly during the breeding season for red mullet (August-September). It is common in some parts of the country for vessels to enter protected areas in order to catch undersize red mullet, for which there is significant market demand. These areas have seagrass meadows (Poseidonia oceanica), an aquatic plant forming underwater meadows which host many organisms) and the whole benthic substrate. With bottom trawling the net causes enormous damage: it acts like a plough on the seabed, altering its surface and destroying organisms living there. Beyond a depth of 50 m however, the bottom is generally sandy or muddy and it is possible to catch target species (shrimp, scampi etc.) without particular damage to the environment.


sistema a circuizione

The surrounding nets (with local names lampara) for mid-water fishing are used to catch anchovies, sardines, mackerel, horse mackerel and the other pelagic species. Nets can reach a length of 800 meters (in some cases even 4000 meters) and a height of 300 meters, with the size of Italian vessels ranging from 30 to 100 tonnes, and engine power sometimes exceeding 800 HP. One of the most traditional types of fishing uses lights, called lampare, to attract shoals of fish towards the boats.
The nets consist of numerous panels whose mesh size varies according to the target species. As the nets are very large, the catch is almost always too big for the net to be recovered manually: mechanized scoop nets are used to empty the nets quickly and without damaging the catch.
For tuna fishing a special type of surrounding net is used, a tuna purse seine (tonnara volante). Now most bluefin tuna caught in the Mediterranean, not only for direct consumption but also for fish farming, is by tuna purse seiners.



Small-scale or artisan fishing can be defined as salt or fresh water fishing carried out by vessels with an overall length under 12 meters and tonnage below 10 tonnes, which do not use engine power to catch the fish.
Gillnets and entangling nets are definitely the commonest type of gear used in small-scale fishing. These are nets forming a barrier on deep seabeds from a minimum height of 1.5 meters to as much as several meters for pelagic fish. Trammel nets are the most widely used type. They consist of three layers of mesh panel and catch fish passively. All gillnets, in common with the whole range of gears used by artisan fishing vessels, have minimal impact on the coastal marine environment (seabeds). Various types of gillnet are named after their target species, such as nasellare for hake, sogliolare for sole, trigliare for red mullet, calamitare for squid.
Seine nets, an inshore surrounding net for catching pelagic fish, seabream and special fish such as the prized transparent goby, is another gear used in small-scale artisan fishing, particularly in the winter period.

Artisan fishing is very widespread in Italian waters. Small-scale fishing could become sustainable in its interactions with the marine environment with people becoming aware of the greater potential benefits and importance of virtuous behavior. However the current situation shows a number of negative features. Firstly, a significant amount of small-scale fishing activity takes place within two miles of the coast, the area where most species reproduce. Secondly, gears used for small-scale fishing are now made from plastic and nylon-get and are often lost or abandoned at sea. This problem, known as ghost-fishing, is particularly present in northern European waters, but is unfortunately also spreading in the Mediterranean. Equipment left in the sea, especially gillnets and pots, no longer degrade and they continue to catch fish, crustaceans and mollusks.
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