Charfia fishing in the Kerkennah Islands


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Inscribed in 2020 (15.COM) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

© Institut National du Patrimoine (INP), Tunisie, 2019

Charfia fishing in the Kerkennah Islands is a traditional, passive fishing technique that capitalises on the hydrographic conditions, seabed contours and natural resources both at sea and on land. The ‘charfia’ is a fixed fishery system consisting of palm fronds embedded in the seabed to create a triangular barrier, blocking the path of the fish pulled in by the ebb tide and channelling them into capture chambers and finally into a net or trap. Unlike bottom trawling systems that scrape the seabed, the traps keep the fish alive and fasting until raised. It is customary to install and operate the charfia only between the autumn equinox and June to ensure the marine wildlife have a biological rest period. The charfias are rebuilt each year, accompanied by social practices such as sharing a meal or rogatory prayers. The practice of charfia fishing requires extensive knowledge of underwater topography and marine currents. Many of the inhabitants of Kerkennah learn to fish from an early age and it is also common for a râїs to leave his fishery to his eldest son to perpetuate ownership. Vocational training centres also provide indirect training. Charfia fishing is the main fishing technique used in the Kerkennah Islands. The entire local community participates in the different phases of the process in varying degrees, from installing the charfia and the accompanying rituals to raising the traps, making this a unifying element for all Kerkennians.