Gone fishing! Many of you might have used it as the metaphor to display on your shop window whilst away on vacation, in this case I mean it literally!
Last Sunday we went for a lazy sail towards Cap Blanc and hundreds of small boats, not exaggerating, dotted on the horizon caught my attention. When I tuned to the date, I realised that it was September 1 and I had the answer to all my curiosity.
This is the date from when the Raor (Xyrichtys novacula) can be fished until the end of March. The Raor is a fish with exquisite meat, often compared to lobster, sharing also the high price.
It is highly appreciated by the Balearic community and on the first day after the fishing restriction ends fishermen go crazy and head out on their mission from very early hours in the morning. They do it in large numbers even more so when the first day of the fishing allowance falls on a Sunday and the sea is calm.
Colloquially, it is said that the fishing restrictions ends on September 1 after all the recreational fishermen on holiday from the mainland have returned to their home ports, so the Raons are all for the locals!
You might be wondering what is so special about Raors and what leads to this absolute fishing fever. First, it has become like a tradition or trend that marks the end of the summer in some way but as it occurs, when something is prohibited, and the allowance suddenly begins everybody most go and enjoy this freedom.
Environmentally speaking, there is much debate about whether the restriction benefits the conservation of the species as the fishing pressure over the first two weeks of September is so great that the colonies of Raors drastically decrease. It must be said that this type of fish is not endangered even more so as the fishing restriction ends once the reproduction period happening over the summer has concluded.
Raors are small fish no larger that 20cm and their habitat are sandy sea floors close to the Poseidonia prairies between 1-50 metres of depth. They can be found anywhere in the Balearics where these conditions are met. They have a razor type shape and display beautifully coloured jelly like scales in blue, yellow and pink. With strong jaws in their tiny mouths they feed on molluscs and small fish, nurturing their own meat that is delicate and white.
Even though it is a very small fish its meat removes easily and has no bones. Fishing Raors is an art to itself as you need to choose your bait carefully to place on your small hooks as they are fussy eaters. Small prawns are their favourite and fishing shops run out of bait quickly at this time of the year. It takes hours of patience as the fishing is not selective and they don’t live in large schools. It is calculated that only half a ton of Raors are fished each season in our waters. The Balearic government has also restricted recreational fishing to 50 units per licence with a maximum of 300 units per boat and day, it takes about 20-40 Raors to reach one kilogram. It is obligatory to adhere to these restrictions as inspections are carried out in the most popular fishing ports. Fishing without a valid license or outside the allowance period is highly sanctioned.
Raors are rare to find in restaurants and if they are local, they are expensive as the market price ranges from 80-100 euros per kilo. It is important to make sure that they are local as many restaurants offer Raors year-round, but these come from the mainland where this fish is not as highly regarded as in the Balearics and the flavour, texture and freshness cannot be compared. It is said that the quality of the water and diet is better in the Balearic sea so the Raors are finer and tastier.
So, don’t be surprised if on your next visit to “El Patio de Gloria” our chef Javier Gardonio offers some local Raors that he would have picked up on his daily fish market stroll to surprise his guests. Visiting the local market to find his daily inspiration is one of his favourite tasks and if you ever wish for a special catch of the day just let us know and you can join him at the market and savour it later at the restaurant.
To conclude the fishing update, next on the fishing calendar are Llampugas, completely different to Raors but also highly appreciated by locals!
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