The latest incident, in order of time, occurred in Trani, where two poaching fishermen were apprehended with 16 kilograms of dates of the sea on board. The date palm, which has been a protected species for years in almost all Mediterranean coastal countries (except Bosnia, where in Neum, the country’s only sea outlet, they are fished in large quantities), continues to be harvested and sold under the table by the pound. We are talking about 50/60 euros per kilo, up to 100/200 when the Christmas season approaches.
Why is date (Lithophaga lithophaga) harvesting prohibited? These reddish-brown bivalve mollusks (the name date shellfish derives precisely from their resemblance to the fruit), with an intense flavor somewhere between mussel and oyster, settle-very slowly: they take between 15 and 35 years to reach 5 cm in length-inside underwater limestone rocks and live in the embedments in the holes they make.
It is not an endangered species, but its harvesting causes an irreparable environmental disaster: rocks are drilled with jackhammers, mining pliers, and ice picks. Some even resort to explosives.
Screenshot of an old film showing a “date maker” in action with hammer
Take a mask ride in areas that were once rich in dates: we are reminded of the waters in front of Genoa, reduced to a pile of debris, a veritable desert that has compromised the survival of fish, algae and coral. And in some areas of southern Italy, and in the Adriatic, it is even worse. And davastation continues, despite the fact that date fishing has been banned since 1998. There are still those who want to eat dates and there are those who supply this black market with a turnover of hundreds of thousands of euros.
WHAT IS AT RISK
If you are caught red-handed, the fines are steep, rightly so we add: the crime of date fishing can be punished with is imprisonment from 2 months to 2 years or a fine ranging from 2,000 euros to 12,000 euros, in addition to the seizure of the catch and all equipment. Mind you, it is not only the person who catches them who commits a crime, but also the consumer. If you are caught in the act by law enforcement while enjoying a plate of dates, you can be fined.
If you happen to find seafood date dishes in a restaurant, you can report it by calling the Coast Guard or Forestry Service at 1515.