The Anchors of Tavira Island at Algarve, Portugal

Algarve Portugal Anchors

For centuries the tuna industry flourished in Algarve, Portugal. Over time fishermen flocked to the coast of Portugal, eventually decimating the tuna population. When it became no longer profitable to fish for tuna, the fishermen left.

While the ships and the men of the sea are gone, the anchors used to catch tuna were left behind.


In the mid-twentieth century fishermen along the coast of Portugal were planting anchors into the beaches and cast nets along the coast. This mission to catch tuna was a regional tradition spanning generations, and practiced for more than one hundred years.

By the 1970’s the tuna population had decreased significantly. Correspondingly, fewer and fewer fishermen were tending to the beached anchors. When the well ran dry, the fishermen left. The big and heavy anchors were left behind.

The locals call the anchors the Cemitério das Âncoras (cemetery of anchors), and since no official record was made of the anchors source, there is no official responsibility for cleanup or disposal.

Comparatively there isn’t much mystery behind the anchors as we know they were placed there by fishermen over time. Does that make them a cultural landmark, worthy of preservation in recognition of the area’s past? If there is, the local government doesn’t share that opinion. Recently, there were discussions to clean up the anchors from the beach.

What do you think?  Eyesore or cultural history?

(Click thumbnails to enlarge)

See it on a map here

(Images via WebUrbanist & Artificial Owl)



  1. cultural history for sure! it appears they’re cordoned off, so they’re not occupying the whole beach by any means.

  2. A thoughtful and sculptural reminder that situations and lives can be changed by factors beyond our control.

  3. Definitely cultural history! Why would anyone even suggest removing them? I’m guessing the local town is probably broke and some moronic politician and wants to scrap the anchors.

  4. The photos certainly make it look beautiful. I suspect they could clean up a section of the anchors to make useable beach while leaving a large sections as a museum and for curiosity. Do you know what they decided to do?

    • Funny you ask about that, I clicked the map link to see what it looks like now – and I don’t see the anchors. I published this almost 3 years ago so I wouldn’t be surprised if something had been done with the anchors. Maybe the map link is incorrect and they are still there somewhere. Good question though, I’ll have to look more into this…

        • Kate, I would very much appreciate that, thank you! Are you local to the area? If you do find the anchors I would like to feature more photographs as well. If you are interested, I could feature your work here and I would be happy to give you photo credit as well. Thanks!

  5. I am going there on tuesday, my sister has a house there.
    It is the most beautiful place! I was lucky enough to go there every year as I grew up.
    I will walk amongst them for you and take a few pictures.
    Lots of lives were lost catching tuna often by hand out of the boat! and the locals remember this place for them it feels very spiritual. I hope they would never get rid of them.
    They are found at Praia do Barril 4 miles west of Tavira in the Algarve region of Portugal. A little train takes you across the spit of land that broke off during an earthquake years ago.
    It’s a really lovely area you must try and visit 🙂


  6. The anchors were used to fix the tuna nets to the sea bed, they were not from boats. Barril was one of the four tuna fishing sites in the eastern Algarve. When the tuna fishing stopped in the 1970’s the anchors were abandoned. The nets extended for up to six miles.

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