Taking tradition to the internet

Throughout the decades, Portugal has been home to a rich and very traditional fishing economy and while the industry remains an important aspect of the culture, it has reached a crucial development point. 

Right on the borderlines of Spain and Portugal, there is one specific region which still to this day embodies the authentic fishing industry home to the Iberian Peninsula: the Algarve.

The southern coastal region part of Portugal’s picturesque landscape sits only 200 kilometres west of it’s neighbour and for years has welcomed locals and tourists to enjoy the sunny beaches, gorgeous weather and crystal blue water.

With such an inviting atmosphere and culture, tourists have begun emerging themselves into the country’s classic industry by partaking on different water-related activities in the area.

As a result of the tourist boom, the few locals who continue to make fishing their main source of income are now competing with more humans in their waters and have been forced to adapt any way they could in order to survive.

Some of which include using 21st century tourism-focused excursion companies.

Most of the marines in the Algarve are filled with both traditional and excursion boats.

Eduardo Conejero Campos, 35, is one fisherman who has seen the traditional activity change over the last three decades and as a result, has turned to the world-wide booking service Airbnb to promote the fishing industry to the budding tourist scene in the Algarve.

Campos, who occasionally goes by Eddie to his fellow fishing-mates, is originally from the eastern side of the border but had lived in a little villa near Sagres, Portugal for the past five years. Fishing, however, has been a calming and enjoyable activity for all his life.

Ever since he was a young boy, Campos believed that his calling was towards the sea. Whether that was fishing with his little yellow fishing rod as a child or surfing with friends in the waves as a young adult.

“I remember when I was a kid, my father used to take my brothers and me to the beach on the weekends. We lived close to a natural park that had a few beaches and I remember would bring all the rods and set up to fish along the beach,” explained Campos

“The activity is a real father-son one, you know. So it was very popular to fish along the shore on the weekends.”

Father and son spend the afternoon casting lines off the dock on Ilha Deserta

 

The difference now in 2019 is that he has noticed the switch from shore fishing to something bigger and better. As a result, Campos is welcoming the changes to the industry with open arms.

With the changing industry, Campos quickly realised that it was not just him and his fishing friends who would enjoy spending time on the shore under the hot Portuguese sun while also helping the economy at the same time.

“I like to go fishing with my friends and sometimes we go for big game fishing too. Two years ago we hooked a blue-fin tuna that weighed about 500-600 kilograms and it was massive. We fought the fish for 10 or 11 hours to try and catch it but when it got dark it was too difficult to control the fish and we lost it. But regardless, it was one of the most memorable and interesting fishing experiences in my life.”

Under the AirBnB experiences category, Campos lists himself as a qualified guide who will take tourists out into the sea on authentic ‘big-game fishing’ expeditions for a few hours where tourists will enjoy a half-day adventure filled with an authentic Portuguese fishing-industry feel.

On these trips, participants are taken out deeper into the ocean and use bigger, heavier, and better equipment to try and catch exotic species such as Marin or bluefin tuna.

“I am one of the only ones doing trips like this during the season so that is why I started the AirBnB experience tour. I like it a lot for myself and I would like to share something with new people, and share some stories”

Campos’ Airbnb advertisement gives all the details for the trip.

 

Between all the different fishing excursions, including Campos’, and the general rise of tourism growth over the last eight years, the economy has been slowly recovering and making the Algarve one of Europe’s top vacation destinations.

“Before tourism, the Algarve was kind of economically depressed,” said Campos.

“Most people were in with either fishing or farming and the area didn’t really have much industry. With the tourism, a lot of people were able to improve the economic part of their life (and) this was nice to see, really, because it made everything seem more cosmopolitan with the people from all over.”

Between the economy growing with the rise of tourism and the various excursion companies in the area, Campos is competing with a fair amount of competition when it comes to his AirBnB experience but by using the web-platform, he attracts a different audience than other tours.

No matter when, where or who he casts his rods with, whether it be alone on the shoreline with the orange and pink sunrise or with a few foreign faces deep in the ocean accompanied by a full moon, Campos will always save a special place in his heart for fishing and for sharing a classic Portuguese tradition with other people.

“I feel a lot of connection with the water, whether it’s fresh or salt water I don’t care but the ocean mainly is the biggest thing for me. Living close to the ocean you can practice so many different activities and everyone likes the atmosphere. I like surfing but fishing was my first favourite activity.”