National Geographic : 1954 Nov
The gate is so designed that it casts shadows across the entrance. The tuna swims in but will not go back again. The gate does not have to be closed unless the catch is very heavy. The corral itself is a space enclosed by heavy nets, about 400 yards long by 50 wide. A lot of tuna can crowd in there. They come in schools of 60-odd to 1,000, sometimes as many as 2,000. They swim deep, and no one knows how many are in the corral until the bottom net is raised and the fish are forced to the surface. If one tuna is seen in the corral, it is known that a school is there. No lone tuna comes while the run is on. "Idlers" Keep Watch for Fish All around the corral bob long black boats, almost sinister in appearance, which are moored there in April and stay for the season. In these men watch. There are special watch ers, too, who are called "idlers"-a libelous name, for they are anything but idle-who sit in dinghies, watching the depths all day long. The tuna is very difficult for the unskilled eye to see, for he swims far down with his blue back uppermost. I couldn't see a thing but water, though after a while the chief idler reported very quietly that a school was in. I looked and looked and saw nothing at all only the lines of yellow corks bobbing quietly, and the black boats, and the anchored dhows which would take the tuna to market once they were caught. All this, and far off, maybe 10 miles or so, the sandy shore of the Algarve and beyond it Faro, Portugal's southernmost city and capital of the Province, shimmering in the morning heat. Immediately there was subdued excitement, though the idler merely whispered his news to the veteran master of the nets, who came to greet Senhor La. "Fish," he said, pointing. To him and to La the word "fish" means tuna-at any rate in May and June. Until then, all had been silence. Not more than three or four men had been in sight, in all the boats. Now, without another sound, figures began to show from the boats grouped round the corral until there were 100 or more men with determined, sun-tanned faces. Qui etly they went about the work of throwing a mobile net across the corral to pen the tuna in and drive them along toward the "cup" at its farther end. Once in the corral the tuna swim round and round. The master of the nets, taking charge, gave the word to throw the net as soon as he saw-I could still see nothing-that the tuna were headed for the cup end. Down went the net like a flash. Then there was sound enough! The men believe the tuna can hear them and that, if there is a startling noise before the net has trapped them, the fish may break through. Until then, the mesh of the barrier nets is big enough to allow the tuna to swim through. It isn't until the fish reaches the cup that it is really trapped. Killer Whales Start Stampede But the tuna doesn't know that. Its only hope of freedom lies in being startled, and what frightens it most of all is the killer whale -the dreaded roaz, which preys upon fat tuna and knows about the run, too.