2.2 Women and Tuna Fishing

Home Ondine Women and Tuna Fishing

Marginal and yet Essential

The Community Character of Fishery

For centuries, tuna fishing had been the primary source of income for Slovenian fishermen of the Trieste seaboard. It was practised in the stretch of coast between Barcola and San Giovanni del Timavo. Its technique involved the posting of three lookout fishermen and another six or seven on a boat.

In this type of fishing, women were involved in the final phase of hauling the net and bringing the tuna ashore. Once the fishing was over, the fishermen divided up the catch: half went to the owner of the boat; of the other half, every seventh fish was destined for those who had helped bring the net ashore, women and children included.

Finally, there was the very delicate phase of cleaning the tuna, during which women could also be involved. The tuna meat was destined for the market, while the fishermen and their families kept the entrails for themselves. Hearts and livers were fried, seasoned with wild fennel (kuaramač) and eaten immediately. The stomachs of the tuna were preserved in salt and prepared as tripe for the winter.

Jasna Simoneta
Ribiški muzej Tržaškega Primorja
Museo della pesca del Litorale triestino


Women and Tuna Fishing in the Trieste Seaboard

Video 2.2.a – Bruno Volpi Lisjak talks about the role of women in tuna fishing in the Trieste seaboard.
(Interview with Bruno Volpi Lisjak–Križ (Slovenia), 18 September 2021. Interviewer: Erica Mezzoli)


Trieste, the Emporium, and… Tuna Fishing

stampa panorama trieste XiX secolo
Fig. 2.2.b – In a panorama of Trieste, of its territory and fundamental elements of its economy in the very early years of the 19th century, tuna fishing is also captured (on the lower right).
(Veduta meridionale della città e Porto franco di Trieste dedicata allo spettabile ceto mercantile in Trieste disegnata dal Ces. Reg. Professore di disegno Giuseppe Pollencig l’anno 1801 – Collezione Davia, Trieste)


Tuna Fishing in Aurisina

Fig. 2.2.c – The third and final phase of tuna fishing (that of traction to the shore of the net) on the beach of Aurisina (Trieste, Italy), in the 1910s and 1920s.
(Ribiški muzej TP-Museo pesca LT)


Tuna Fishing in Santa Croce

Fig. 2.2.d – Note the great collective effort required in the third stage of this particular type of fishing. In the picture a tuna fishing scene in Santa Croce (Trieste) in 1947.
(Ribiški Muzej TP-Museo pesca LT)


Women and Children

The fact that tuna fishing is highly gender polarized is beyond question. The crew and lookouts were all men. However, due to its highly collective character, women and children were also involved. They were the ones who gave this type of fishing its community character.

Fig. 2.2.e.1 – Children in the boat and women pulling the net to the shore with the men. Santa Croce (Trieste, Italy), 1954.
(BCR – “Livio Palladin”)
Fig. 2.2.e.2 – Men, women and children together at work. Santa Croce (Trieste, Italy), 1954.
(BCR – “Livio Palladin”)



Fig. 2.2.f – Some boys placing the tuna on the beach. Santa Croce (Trieste, Italy), 1954.
(BCR – “Livio Palladin” in copia presso Ribiški muzej TP-Museo pesca LT)


Albatross – Miroslav Košuta

Fig. 2.2.g – (…)

Albatross, flame from Southern seas,
fishermen where I come from
know nothing about him
they don’t know if it’s wind
or fish,
and it never ever occurs to them,
it is a bird.

“Albatross” , Miroslav Košuta (Ribiški muzej TP-Museo pesca LT)



Fig. 2.2.h – Kids taking part in the gutting and cleaning of the tuna. Santa Croce (Trieste), 1954.
(Ribiški muzej TP-Museo pesca LT)


Tonera Boat

tonera anni 30
Fig. 2.2.i – Image dating back to the 1930s of a tonera boat used to fish for tuna in the Trieste seaboard.
(Ribiški muzej TP-Museo pesca LT)


Spectacular Tuna Fishing on Trieste’s Seaboard

Video 2.2.l – The Director of the Ribiški Muzej Tržaškega Primorja – Museo della pesca del Litorale triestino (Santa Croce, Trieste, Italy) – Franco Cossutta, gives us detailed information about tuna fishing on Trieste’s seaboard.
(Interview with Franco Cossutta – Santa Croce (Trieste, Italy), 18 October 2021. Interviewer: Erica Mezzoli)