Almadraba Tuna Festival
The gastronomical festival of Almadraba bluefin tuna in Cadiz is a unique experience. They take place in May and June of each year. If you’re in one of the coastal villages of Cádiz province, you will see the excitement first-hand. But many people may ask – why is tuna so important that it warrants a month-long festival?
The Importance of Tuna
Bluefin tuna is the largest tuna species in the world. It is also one of the most sought-after and expensive fish in the world. A single bluefin tuna in Japan sold for over €2.7 million earlier this year! Japan has become the largest consumer of this tuna, where it is a highly prized fish for use in sashimi and sushi
Bluefin tuna in Cadiz was and still is an important part of the economy along the south coast for thousands of years. The Phoenicians fished the bluefin tuna along the coast. When Romans colonised Spain, they also fished the tuna. The Romans used the tuna to create a sauce made from fermented fish, known as garum.
At Baelo Claudia in Bolonia, you can still see the ruins of the fish factory where they created this sauce (Visit Baelo Claudia during our Tuna Tour). From Baelo Claudia, it was exported throughout the Roman empire and was incredibly popular and valued. Since the Phoenician times, the method used for trapping the bluefin tuna in Cadiz province is the Almadraba.
Almadraba is the type of trap used to capture the bluefin tuna. It is a complex labyrinth of nets and can stretch kilometers in length. It herds the tuna through a series of nets towards the final trap, the copo.
Several times throughout the fishing season, the fisherman work together to lift the copo net filled with enormous tuna, “La levantá”, or the “lifting”.
Almadraba is an old Andalusian Arabic word meaning “a place to fight or hit”. During the levantá the fish and the fishermen used to fight and smash together as their space decreases.
Bluefin tuna are highly regulated in Spain to ensure it remains sustainable. The Almadraba trapping event only occurs between May and June. At this time the fish are heading through the Strait of Gibraltar to the Mediterranean to spawn. They have spent the winter feeding and gaining weight in the Atlantic and are considered their most delicious at this time.
The tuna also have to be a certain size in order to be caught. If they are too small, they are released back into the ocean to continue their journey to spawn.
The Almadraba method was historically practiced all along the coast of Cádiz province. However, now it is only used in 4 villages: Barbate, Zahara de los Atunes, Conil de la Frontera, and Tarifa. Each of these villages also has a festival every May or June to celebrate this annual important event.
The Almadraba is a key part of the economy, history and culture of each of these villages. Many of the residents still rely on the tuna for their way of life.
The Tuna Route (Ruta del Atún) is a festival that takes place annually in each village. It is an enormous event and attracts people from all around Spain. There are music concerts, dance and theatrical performances, history tours and art displays. However the star, of course, is the tuna!
Conil de la Frontera created this event and the festival is now in its 23rd year. Conil hosts the Tuna Route during an entire month from 8th of May- 8th of June. Whereas the other villages are somewhat newer and enjoy a week-long festival rather than a month. Barbate is 29th April-3rd May, Zahara de los Atunes is May 12th-17th and Tarifa is June 3rd-7th.
One of the highlights that brings so many people to these villages is the culinary masterpieces. There is a competition between the local bars and restaurants for the best tuna dishes. There are two prizes – one for the best innovative dish and one for the best traditional dish. Each of the villages has their own competition and usually about 30-40 bars are competing.
In addition to the tuna tapa competition, there are many cooking shows and demonstrations by well-known chefs. They showcase some of the hundreds of ways to cook the tuna. As well, there are demonstrations of the Ronqueo – the traditional method of cutting a tuna fish.
If you want to visit any of the festival and don’t know where to start, just talk to us! Each village has their own different highlights and events happening. This is an event not to miss. If you’ll be in Cádiz during the month make sure to check any of the festivals of bluefin tuna in Cadiz province. We focus on food, sherry and cultural tours in Cadiz province, specializing around Vejer de la Frontera.