|8,9 % of the national fishing fleet
Fermented anchovy sauce or “colatura di alici”, known in ancient Rome as garum, is proof of the bond between traditional Mediterranean cuisine and small pelagic species, which have always been a source of nutrition and income for Italian fishers. These species were was generally fished in the summer, and as soon as they were landed the fish were salted and put into large barrels for storage.
The oldest commercial fishing system for anchovies and sardines was with gillnets like those locally known as “menaide”, which were made of a single piece of net with uniform mesh that was dropped into the current, it caught fish as they passed which the fishers then had to remove one by one. Another system in use consisted of an encircling net also called “saccaleva” or fountain net. Thanks to this kind of fishing gear it was possible to trick a whole shoal of pelagic fish that was surrounded and when the lead line was pulled in it formed a kind of bag in which the fish were captured.
Since the 1920s these fishing systems were gradually replaced by what is known as “lampara”, a surrounding net without the purse line, which is a more efficient system that exploits the habit of small pelagic fish to gather under a light source. But the name “lampara”, contrary to popular belief, is not so much the use of light sources but is probably due to the fact that on moonless nights the net beams become phosphorescent when the net is hauled in.
The net is a seine or encircling type, it is stretched vertically and the upper part is supported on the surface by floats. It is lowered from the main boat, like an enormous sheet, while another vessel equipped with a light source gathers the fish in one place so they don’t scatter.
Originally the light source consisted of a fire that was lit on an external support, following this by a lamp using carbide, then with oil and finally present-day solution with electricity generators.
From the 1940s a new system was introduced, called “cianciolo” in Italian, which is a purse seine net. The innovation consisted in the addition of iron rings on the lead line which allow for mechanical closure of the base of the net which means that the entire shoal of fish is quickly trapped.