Sustainable fishing on Mallorca

October 17, 2016
Marialaura Dolfi

At first glance, the artisanal fisherman’s life you see on Mallorca looks romantic. Poetic and almost bucolic — fishing in these beautiful waters aboard a little boat, selling the day’s catch to the best restaurants in Palma, and living a slow food life without any rush, concrete jungles, or traffic jams.

Mallorca fishing boats

Fishing boats in the harbour of Palma de Mallorca

But, in fact, this life is physically demanding. It’s hard work, risky and out of rhythm with our typical modern culture. But in a world where it seems like everything is made by machine with no thought to what’s natural, these fishermen work every day with their hands, respecting the environment in order to keep the fish population healthy, working sustainably and with dignity.

Local fishermen can help the community to take better care of our sea, alerting us to when our sea gets sick. Their lives depend on the sea and they respect it more than we can imagine.

That’s why it is so interesting for us to meet and work with local fishermen on our Mallorca tours.

Earlier this summer, we met with Andreu, a local fisherman with long curly hair, tan skin, and a half smile permanently drawn on his face. He was waiting for us on his eight-metre, sea-blue coloured fishing boat, “The Engineer.”

It was afternoon and there was warm sunshine on the clear harbour waters. The plan was for us to help him with his nets, 10 miles away from the coast, but the weather was not cooperating — although it was hot and sunny with a fresh breeze, the waves were choppy. Not good weather for a little boat. But we went out anyway.

The boat rocked over the waves as we sat with Andreu inside his pilot’s cabin. Me perched on a plastic box, and Damià on a wooden bench. We chatted about the kinds of fish he catches and the amount of work that goes into his profession.

He broke it down like this: he leaves every morning with his boat at 4am. In summer months, he fishes with nets and checks them every other day to see if he’s caught something — if he waits longer than that, the fish could die prematurely and not be edible. But at the same time, he can’t go out if the sea is too rough because of the tiny dimensions of his boat. Bringing the nets back, some 10 miles back to the harbour, can be risky if the waves are too big. He could lose control of the boat. He could fall into the water and become tangled in the nets.

Fishing nets on the harbour in Mallorca

A tangle of fishing nets

Even if the weather is good and he gets out on time, sometimes he arrives to find the nets are no longer there. Sometimes motorised yachts or large boats cross over the nets, destroying everything. He could lose his nets at any time, and some of the nets can be quite expensive. It’s possible for some to cost as much as EUR 3,000.

So we asked him, “Why are you still a fisherman?”

Andreu smiled with both his eyes and his mouth as he answered. “I am a fisherman because I love to do it. I love the sea and I love the sensation when I catch something big. I can die, it is true, but I have no regrets because in my life I did what I love.”

It seems Andreu isn’t just a simple fisherman, but also an entrepreneur, a philosopher, and a dreamer.

Clear water in the harbour of Mallorca

There may be calm water in the harbour, but beware rough seas further on

Once we arrived at the nets, we discovered that thankfully each net was still in place — no boat had destroyed the nets during the night. That was the good news. The bad news was that the sea was now choppier than before.

Andreu stood up in silence for what felt like a full five minutes, looking our at the sea and at the nets. It felt like a good silence, though — the silence of reflection. Andreu took his time to decide if we should take the nets or leave them for another day.

He started the engine and we left them, and after a while we arrived back at the harbour.

Andreu hugged us hard. He promised to host us back again on a calm day to continue our chat and to fish.

Our day with him made us think how we’d love to cooperate with him — and he said he’d like to cooperate with us — to develop something that combines alternative ecological solutions with tourism. We’re working on a local tour that could help Andreu and other local fishermen to lead a better-quality life, while giving travellers a unique day out fishing with Andreu.

If you’re in Palma de Mallorca, give us a shout and hop on a tour! We’ll show you the Mallorca way of life and you’ll meet locals like Andreu.