The red shrimp is an “elegant lady” who drags you into the sea for days and days… but courting her can now cost your skin, after the Libyans’ shots and the Turkish assaults.
Highly prized, sought after by aficionados, extraordinarily tasty. It is the red prawn of Mazara del Vallo, a crustacean that lives in the waters of the Mediterranean, with a firm flesh, a well-defined flavor and an unmistakable scent of the sea.
During the summer, the heads of the females become dark due to the presence of the eggs: it is the “shrimp caviar”, excellent for seasoning pasta.
It is fished and frozen on board, a conservation technique that is highly appreciated, as it allows the organoleptic properties of the product to be preserved intact even months after capture.
The demand for the product is high, the supply is lower and someone can take advantage of this situation by selling Argentine prawns pretending they are Mazara red prawns.
The point is that the Mazara del Vallo fleet has shrunk over the decades. Today there are only about fifty fishing boats that leave land to stay at sea for a couple of months.
Fishermen sail non-stop to reach the fishing areas, at the risk of their lives. It is a risky business that is becoming more and more dangerous. Mazara del Vallo is a seafaring city of 50 thousand inhabitants in the province of Trapani, with a port that overlooks the Sicilian Channel and is less than 200 kilometers from the Tunisian coast. Crews that leave for fishing trips suffer attacks by the Coast Guard of a Country that claims to be a friend of Italy. According to the Sicilian Fishing District, more than 50 boats have been seized and two confiscated in the last 25 years, while about 30 fishermen have been halted and dozens of people injured. Seizures of Italian fishing boats have become more frequent since 2005, when Muammar Gaddafi decided to extend Libyan territorial waters from 12 miles (the limit set by international standards) to 74 off the coast, thus stating that the right to exploit the fish resources in that stretch of sea is exclusive. The attacks and harassment also come from Turkish and Greek sailors.
To pay the highest price in this economic and political battle are the fishermen and shipowners, the ones who hunt for the precious red gold of Sicily and who are often forced to abandon their business.