Apart from founding Cádiz, the Phoenicians also set up important fishing and salting industries in the south of the Iberian Peninsula. The ruins of the Roman town Baelo Claudia, on the beach of the town now known as Bolonia, are probably the birthplace of the fishing, salting and garum industries in the province of Cádiz.
Bolonia was established towards the end of the 2nd Century AD on the site of the Phoenician/Punic town of Bailo. The Emperor Claudius granted the town a rank similar to that of a Roman municipality and the name is a combination of that of the original town and the Emperor.
The strategic location of the town (and of the province as well) meant it was of greater importance than other ports. Baelo Claudia was well known for it’s fortress and the quality of the merchandise that flowed through it, principally to North Africa and the rest of the Roman Empire. In the year 18AD Estrabón said: “Baelo is the port where one embarks for Tangis (Tangiers), in Mauritania (Morocco). It also produces salted products”.
Red Tuna migrate from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean in Spring to spawn and return. This led to the development of the important ‘almadraba’ (the Andalucian tuna netting technique) in the seas off Cádiz.
The tuna was previously almost exclusively hand-caught. As soon as the shoals of tuna were spotted, a long net was set out off the beach in a large ‘U’. The net and trapped tuna were then hauled in to the beach by hand.
The techniques improved over time, but still entail extremely hard manual labour. Nowadays nets are set permanently in place and ‘tunnels’ of nets force the tuna into a holding area. In the holding area the nets and tuna are brought close to the surface and the live fish are pulled onto the boats by skilled fishermen with hooked poles similar to boathooks. Undersized fish are released to continue their migration. Some modern boats use pulleys and winches to lift the tuna from the water, but manpower is still a vital ingredient in the annual ‘almadraba’.
Although there are now very strict limits on the capture of red tuna, there are still four permanent ‘almadrabas’ in the province of Cádiz – off Barbate, Conil de la Frontera, Tarifa and Zahara de los Atunes.
The tuna are sold to buyers from all over the world, mainly Japan. Nevertheless red tuna is undoubtably one of the finest dishes to be found in the cuisine of the province of Cádiz. Tuna is served in many different ways in restaurants and beach bars along the entire length of the coast.