Spanish Food – The Pigs of the Sea

The Almadraba.  Do you know about it?

It’s the very controversial method of tuna fishing that is still practised in the south western corner of Spain. It normally involves herding tuna, and encircling a shoal in nets in order to hook the majestic fish.


Tuna can reach up to a few metres long and can weigh up to 500 pounds.  A little more than that little round tin in your pantry!


Although now strictly controlled, and practised by only a handful of fishermen,  the history of the Amadraba stretches back as far as 3000 years.

The name  – although Arabic –  (meaning circle or enclosure and also signifies to strike or to hit) dates to the time when only the intrepid would venture into the unknown seas past the Pillars of Hercules, and head into the wild ocean full of dread and mythical sea monsters.

The ancient Phoenician fishermen called Tuna ‘Horse Mackerel’, or more often ‘Pigs of the Sea’.


Naturally, fanciful ideas and legends grew up around these mythical creatures, and one I particularly like is this one which comes from the Greek historian Polybius.

Then again, old Polybius was a politician, so it might not be the truth!

Close to the coastline around the Pillars of Hercules grew small stunted acorn trees, that not only flourished on the land where herds of pigs devoured the fallen crops, but were also planted deep in the sea.

Here the crop would swell and produce very large fruit. The migrating Tuna would greedily feed on the tasty acorns and therefore grow to an enormous size.

And so, this was how they became known as the ‘Pigs of the Sea’.

What’s for lunch?

Images Wiki Commons

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