How it all began - the discovery of the natural bounty all around Madeira
The Madeira fishing industry began soon after Gonçalves Zarco discovered the Island in the fifteenth century. Many of the sailors that accompanied the discoverer and the colonisers that followed them were themselves fishermen from the Algarve and other regions of Portugal. Initially fish such as the “Garapau” (Blacktail Combers) were caught off the rocky outcrops of the “Pontinha” and the “Forte São José on the immediacies of the Funchal bay area.
Machico today - the area where GonÃ§alves Zarco first set foot on Madeira Island
Machico, being the shore where the Portuguese discoverers first set foot, also enjoyed an early piscatorial industry. Fishermen cast their nets a few short hundred metres off the shoreline. Later, areas such as Porto Moniz, Seixal and Ribeira Brava also developed communities of fishermen. Caniçal on the south eastern stretch of Madeira was also, as so many other locations around the world were, an important whaling centre too. Today Madeira complies with international laws restricting whale fishing.
Did you know?
The fish is known commonly as Black Scabbard in English or "Espada" in Portuguese. The correct common name in Portuguese is "Espada Preta" so as not to confuse with the "Espada Branca" (White Scabbard), which is also fished off Madeiran shores, albeit uncommon for this epipelagic species (fish that habitate closer to sea level) to be fished on a regular basis.