As he photographs our oceans for National Geographic, Brian Skerry often dives in to fishing traditions around the world. Brian recently sent us this postcard from Spain, where he’s photographing a yearly practice called mattanza. For more than a thousand years, Spanish fishermen have set up a maze of nets known as almadraba in the Strait of Gibraltar—the narrow stretch of water between Spain and Morocco. The nets catch Atlantic bluefin tuna as they swim through the strait to return to their Mediterranean spawning grounds.
This dramatic photo, taken by Jeff Wildermuth, shows Brian snapping pictures as fishermen haul in their nets, laden with large, beautiful tuna. (Brian has been underwater with tuna as well—check out his awestruck account of that experience.) The largest Atlantic bluefin can grow to be almost 15 feet long and weigh over 1000 pounds, and they swim at up to 40 mph. Just like Brian, their travels take them from one side of the ocean to the other. Atlantic bluefin spawn in two separate locations—the Mediterranean and the Gulf of Mexico—but scientists have tracked many tuna crossing the Atlantic, suggesting eastern and western tuna populations probably aren’t distinct.
Fishermen here in New England catch bluefin tuna, too. They most commonly use a rod and reel in their search for the lucrative fish, which can fetch thousands of dollars apiece. Atlantic bluefin tuna are a highly depleted species—estimates suggest stocks have declined nearly 70 percent since 1970, although recent indicators suggest that the population may be rebuilding. Because of their migratory nature, Atlantic bluefin are carefully regulated by a transatlantic group called the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas.
We love seeing our blue planet through Brian’s travels, whether it’s bluefin tuna in Spain, farmed carp in China, or the incredible abundance of sea life right here in New England.