Today the fishermen of Marsaxlokk will leave Marsaxlokk harbour to throw their handmade flat rafts (kannizzati) into the sea that on 15 August the lampuki season can officially begin.
“Everyone is anxious to get rid of what we describe the bigeest headache, the risk, so that you can have your rafts already working for you as a fishermen,” said one Marsaxlokk resident.
We found one of the fishermen, Joe Demicoli, preparing heavy chains which are then loaded onto to a fishing vessel so that from midnight on Thursday they can go out and throw their rafts overboard. On 16 August, the first haul of lampuki will be brought to land. The season ends on 31 December.
“The process begins during the shoulder months when the fishermen do not really have that much to do. So they begin preparing the rafts here, or as we call them in these parts, the corks. This is the jablo which is tied inside sacks. The palm fronds are tied to this, and it is tied to the stone block which is thrown overboard. The stone block keeps the float there so that eventually the lampuki come underneath the shade of the palm fronds,” says Joe.
Around 130 fishing boats are expected to depart from Marsaxlokk. Every boat has an average of around 150 rafts and they threw around three or four rafts for every nautical mile, with the fishing taking place between 8 – 100 nautical miles off Malta. These boats are all lined up in a position which would have been decided by draw. However, Joe Demicoli explained that not everything is a bed of roses because it is not the first time that they have found other fishermen on their rafts.
“We know for a fact that many of our neighbours, the Tunisians, have started doing the same thing, and they are getting in our way. Then there are the Italians who we are informed have reached the Gulf of Naples. In other words, the lampuka is no longer fished for with the system which the Maltese have created using these rafts, but is now a technique which is being used by our fellow fishermen in neighbouring countries. Even the Spanish are doing the same thing. ”
He said that as fishermen, they have asked fo the assistance of the Armed Forces, the ALE Police, and Transport Malta to supervise other boats, such as cabin cruisers, which every year deliberately damage their rafts.
“Please do not go far out to sea, because if you pass by the raft you will be ruining the chances of that raft to catch any fish,” says Joe.
Meanwhile, over the last few days, the Parliamentary Secretary Clint Camilleri during a meeting with various fishermen announced that the pruning of palm trees for lampuki fishing will no longer be done by fisherman, but by the Government. Gozo Minister Justyne Caruana welcomed this development and said that in all around 3,775 pram fronds were distributed to Gozitan full-time and part-time fishermen.