The Harpoon, the eco-friendly fishing between ethics and needs

How is it possible to be a fisherman and to defend nature at the same time? This is the contradiction that Giuseppe, the main character of the beautiful documentary “The Harpoon”, feels.

Directed by Marco Leopardi, the movie was selected for CinemAmbiente Environmental Film Festival 2015, member of the Green Film Network. Here it won the Ambiente e Società (Environment and Society, editor’s note) Award and obtained a Special Mention in the Italian Documentary Competition.

The Harpoon - poster

Nino, Giuseppe’s father, is a fisherman who continues the thousand-year old tradition of the harpoon swordfish fishing in the Strait of Messina. Giuseppe is destined to follow his family’s footsteps, but he never succeeded in using the harpoon because the idea of killing fishes brakes him. He dreams about becoming a marine biology researcher, in order to study a more responsible way to approach fishing, a fairer relationship between man and sea.

The uniqueness of the harpoon fishing, with its peculiar ships, and its impact on the environment are some of the reasons that encouraged Marco Leopardi to make this film. The director told us: “The environment and the relationship between man and nature have always been interesting to me. Giuseppe’s story, and the story of this kind of fishing, gave me the opportunity to face the issue of the environmental exploitation in its different aspects. Until now, Mediterranean Sea has been hardly exploited and the regulation of fishing can’t give a real regenerating chance to the sea. The harpoon fishing is an activity that doesn’t influence the preservation of the species”.


Unlike other techniques, the harpoon swordfish fishing is a rare example of eco-friendly fishing, and it avoids a long and suffering death to fishes.

In the last few years, there is much talk about the necessity to put into practice the concept of ‘degrowth’ and try to limit the unchecked exploitation of our planet”, Marco Leopardi keeps on. “The harpoon swordfish fishing would be a virtuous example of fishing because it is absolutely selective but, as often, less destructive ways can have a higher cost. Other techniques, like ‘conzo’ and nets are cheaper, but they have a bigger impact”.

Divided between his family’s tradition and his love for the sea, Giuseppe has to make a very difficult choice. After his degree there won’t be many possibilities to find a job, and the fishing could be the only resource he can count on. At the same time, because of his sensibility, he can’t cultivate his father’s job with the same passion.

The harpoon swordfish fishing ship

The viewer can feel the effort of the protagonist, his fear to hurt the world he loves so much. “The style of The Harpoon is connected with the necessity to bring the audience into the story and its different shades”, explains the director. “I gave up a classical and didactic style because I think it would influence the audience and wither the emotional aspect”.

At the end Giuseppe chooses a third way. The young boy will continue his father’s job, but he will not give up on his aim to preserve the environment. The harpoon fishing is not a frantic and greedy technique, but it is an approach that includes a conscious and responsible balance between the prey and its predator.

This story gave me the chance to face the issue of the respect for nature in a more personal perspective”, Marco Leopardi concludes. “The main character wonders about the meaning of killing animals, and about their suffering. These questions don’t have an answer which is undoubtedly true, but I believe they can represent a positive consciousness raising. I think that this  new generations’ approach toward a different, ethical respect for nature will be essential for a future change”.