Visiting the Algarve today its hard to imagine how things must have been 60 years ago. The sea was alive with fish. Vast shoals of sardines and mackerels could be seen from the cliffs, and only slightly deeper, the huge tuna migrated to and from the Mediterranean. The riches of the sea came to the land, and a vast industry grew up to catch and can the fish.
An Ill Wind
“It’s an ill wind that blows no one good” goes the old saying, and that was certainly true to the Algarve. Whilst the trenches in France were scenes of slaughter in the First World War the economy of the Algarve was booming.
Fishing had always been an important part of life, as it is anywhere on the coast, but the troops in the trnches needed feeding. The fish canning industry suddenly had a new market for its tinned sardines and tuna.
Portugal was on the allies side and her troops fighting in the trenches.Business men were quick to see the opportunity. New boats and factories were built. Workers came from the north to live in the lines of new houses built to accomodate them. It was boom time in the Algarve
Time of Peace
Between the wars many industries that had boomed fell into recession.For the Algarves fish canning industry the time of peace was not so bad. Their product had been introduced to the world, and the world comtinued to enjoy the taste. Tinned fish became the favourite working mans Sunday afternoon sandwich.
Clouds of War
When the clouds of war gathered again across the skies of Europe the Algarve got ready to enjoy another time of plenty. Portugal remained neutral throughout the conflict and much to her profit, traded with both sides. The nation that fed the nazis as they oppresed Europe and murdered jews only sided with the allies once Germany was defeated.
With peace in Europe the demand for the Algarves cheap and nutritional product continued. If the Algarve was a smally place it was prosperous as well.
If the market could stand the production the sea could not. Stocks of fish began to decline and the tuna moved their migratory routes away from the coast. Today the Algarve imports fish to feed its residents.