Tribute to the world's artisanal fishermen

Guy d'Arco on his lifelong partner in crime

Guy d'Arco, an artisan fisherman from La Tropez, was born in Tunisia of Bonifacian parents. He is one of the last representatives of traditional local fishing in the Cité du Bailly.

The beginnings of a young fisherman.

Back to port

Guy d'Arco, 69, grew up in Saint-Tropez and has been fishing for 55 years. Deeply in love with his village and the sea, his education in the fishing trade began at the age of 14.

Before choosing this profession, young Guy had tried his hand at working for Monsieur Robert Maddalena, an architect, then in plumbing for Monsieur Gilbert Spada, a well-known and respected plumber in Saint-Tropez. The latter was the son-in-law of one of the best fishermen in the Var, Monsieur Queirolo, known as Jojo. Knowing that Guy was a regular visitor to the fishermen of the old port, and realizing that plumbing held little interest for the teenager, Monsieur Spada offered to teach Jojo the trade. Jojo readily accepted.

A day of fishing.

My lobster is fresh!

The first prud'homme and the fishing prud'homie.

Fisherman and Prud'homme

Guy d'Arco is currently the first prud'homme of the Prud'homie de pêche Tropézienne. The prud'homie is the building that houses the institution and the fishing equipment. The Saint-Tropez prud'homie is located on the port, at the beginning of the Jean-Réveille mole, a stone's throw from the fishing boats. It's also the place where we meet to chat in the shade, put the fish in the fridges and use the ice machine. The term "prud'homie" defines the institution that brings together fishermen and manages an area. The geographical area where the power of the Saint-Tropez prud'homme is exercised extends over some 65 kilometers of coastline, from the Pramousquier beach (municipal boundary between Rayol-Canadel and Lavandou) to the Garonnette beach (municipal boundary between Sainte Maxime and Roquebrune-sur-Argens).

The first prud'homme and his assistants have the power to draw up prud'homal regulations, and to make decisions and pass judgement on their entire constituency. They also represent the profession in dealings with local authorities and professional institutions such as the local fishing committee. The prud'homie manages the fishing and marketing of products. It also has an internal role of social support for its members and their families.

The Prud'homie tropézienne has invested in the fight against coarse fishing in order to preserve the traditional fishing trade. It also fights against pollution and tries to protect everything likely to harm the marine ecosystem.

Guy d'Arco works all year round. It's an activity that follows the seasons, respecting the environment and the catches. It's very important to respect the rhythm of reproduction, so as not to deplete marine resources prematurely. January and February are colinot season. May and June are lobster and Saint-Pierre. From August to October, it's sar, sea bream and red mullet.

At the start of the season, Guy's day begins at dawn. He sets sail on the "Louis Sébastien" to weed nets for crawfish, capon and bouillabaisse.

The "Louis Sébastien" is a wooden boat. Heavy and sturdy, it holds the sea perfectly and can also be sailed. Louis is the name of Guy's grandfather, a fisherman from Bonifacio, and Sébastien the name of his son. This exceptional martigane is much more than a working tool, it's the ally and accomplice of a lifetime.

Then, when the nets are hauled in, Guy returns to port.

Different types of nets are used depending on the type of fishing desired: lobster nets, Saint-Pierre nets, red mullet nets (smaller
), canvas nets for whiting, and larger canvas nets in winter for bass and sea bream. Their use depends on several
factors, such as currents, depths, species sought and weather conditions. But there's also knowledge of coastal topography and experience in the trade. Guy sometimes goes as far as off Dramont or Cap Camarat.

The fish will be sold to restaurateurs in and around Saint-Tropez, as well as to locals and tourists, at the Place aux Herbes fish market.

Young people and the fishing trade.

At present, few young people choose the fishing profession. The activity is difficult, with a restrictive work schedule and intensive seasonal activity. What's more, European standards, charges and the obligation to buy a license discourage potential new fishermen. Buying a boat and net parts requires a substantial initial financial investment. A boat costs around 150,000 euros, and equipment costs between 15,000 and 20,000 euros, which have to be renewed every year.

Today, there are only a few fishermen left in Saint-Tropez: Guy d'Arco, André Raggio, former Premier Prud'homme, Pascal Raggio, son of André Raggio, Christophe Jouan, Franck and Eric Canova, Michel and Rémi Volland.

A lover of the craft.

For Guy d'Arco, there's no better profession than fishing. He loves nature, and "when you love nature, you have to protect it", he stresses. He never tires of the beauty of the open sea, the blazing sunrises, the silvery full moons, the teasing dolphins playing near his point. For many years, he slept aboard his boat, contemplating the celestial vault and the twinkling stars above. This relationship with the universe fills him with an incredible, indefinable sense of calm. It's with humility that he thanks the sea and our nourishing earth. Fishing is respect for all forms of life.

Epilogue

Artisanal fishing and its fishermen are important to Tropezians. This "small-scale fishing" is a source of pride, a precious, authentic heritage handed down from generation to generation. It keeps our dreams intact, and protects our bonds of brotherhood and freedom. How regrettable it would be if it were to disappear forever!

Thanks to Guy d'Arco and the artisan fishermen of Saint-Tropez.

Text and photos Patricia M. Renoux

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