One night fishing for sardines in the Adriatic – Italian Cuisine

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A fishing trip in the Upper Adriatic, off the coast of Chioggia, on the "Audace" and "Profeta" fishing boats to discover the phases of the "short chain" of fish




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What does it mean "short supply chain"fish? It means going out to sea, fishing, selecting, refrigerating and sending the catch to the sales counters in less than 24 hours. But how is such a quick process possible? To find out we participated in a fishing trip in the'Upper Adriatic, to the Largo di Chioggia, on fishing boats "Audace" and "Profeta".
These are two of the 18 boats highly specialized with whom Pam Panorama, historical brand of large retailers, has a pre-emption agreement for the sale. And thanks to this agreement, the fish arrives in supermarkets the day after being caught.

To pursue the Bold and the Prophet we leave from the port of Chioggia before dawn. The tools and nets have been checked and ice has been loaded on board which will be used to keep the catch very fresh until the moment of disembarkation. The fishing boats sail fast, up to 12 knots, towards the open sea. You are looking for a large bank of sardines or anchovies, not only with the help of the most modern equipment such as sonar and echo sounders, but also on sight, with the experience of the captain and his crew, people who know how to go to sea. Where there are the richest banks, the water ripples, boils and has reddish reflections. And even before the fishing boats arrive the dolphins, who certainly do not miss the easy meal.

The reef is located after several hours of navigation in the open sea. It is time, for the twin fishing boats, to drop the net, with a very precise technique that requires great harmony. Audace and Prophet are arranged side by side. Each one holds one end of the thick steel cable to which a complex network is attached: first with large meshes, then increasingly narrower, up to the "sack of death" from which nothing escapes anymore.

Audace and Prophet navigate perfectly synchronous and parallel, and bring down the net that gradually "embraces" thehuge shoal of blue fish. They do this for 30 to 40 minutes, pulling the net. The effort is enormous. As the fish becomes harnessed, its weight causes the two boats to tilt dangerously inwards. When the net is full they finally slow down, stand side by side and, still together, begin to hoist the caught on board. It is a huge "ball" weighing 3500 tons.

The fruit of the catch is calculated in this way, by hand, with that approximation that turns out to be very close to the exact number thanks, once again, to experience. Approximately 500 cases, each case of the weight of 7 kg. The Prophet and the Bold repeat the descent 3-4 times, always with the same procedure in perfect coordination, reserved for this type of fishing. The seagulls fly, screech, swoop in, demanding at least a small part of the booty. By the end of the morning, Audace and Prophet will have almost collected 15 tons of sardines and anchovies.

As soon as the catch is hoisted on board the sailors select it based on the cut and to quality, they place it in the crates and cover it entirely with ice. Once back in the port of Chioggia, around 3.30 pm, the raw material will be further selected, until its quick departure towards the fish counters of the Pam-Panorama points of sale. The journey takes place aboard refrigerated trucks to ensure absolute freshness. And the next day the fish will be on sale.

Over 600 points of sale in Italy
Thanks to the features of absolute quality and freshness the fishmonger department has been the flagship of all over the world since the 1970s 600 points of sale in the Pam Panorama network, present in Piedmont, Lombardy, Liguria, Veneto, Trentino-Alto Adige, Friuli Venezia Giulia, Emilia-Romagna, Tuscany, Umbria, Lazio, Abruzzo, Puglia and Campania.

Towards new routes
The fish cconstitutes 5% of the 2.7 billion of annual turnover. The 46% is fished, then there is the breeding one. The routes of Pam are mainly in the upper Adriatic, and recently we have gone into the Tyrrhenian Sea, along the coasts of Tuscany and Lazio. Territoriality is an important factor, and for this reason the labels show it, indicating in detail the fishing area.
The techniques vary according to the species: such as sardines and anchovies, even mantis shrimp, mullet, baby octopus and cuttlefish, sole, scallops, shrimp and more require specialized and highly professional crafts and methods.
On the strength of these numbers, the company, which has continued to grow in the last two years, aims to expand further, with the opening of large superstores in Veneto, Piedmont and Emilia Romagna. And, why not, with the opening of new routes in the Mediterranean.

By Barbara Galli,
November 2021

Posted on 11/10/2021

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