By Crystal Chung @crystalkchung

ITALIAN fishermen use a clever technique to reel in swordfish pairs who won’t leave each other’s side

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Once the swordfish has been hauled on board, the skipper makes ritual marks similar to a cross on the gills of the dead fish and says a prayer

The romantic tale between two swordfish isn’t one that is commonly told but their dedication to each other puts their lives at risk.

Shot in the South of Italy by photographer Massimo Rumi, the following series of pictures show the ancient fishing tradition of catching swordfish in the Strait of Messina.

The spotter drives the boat from the top of the antenna and gives directions to the harpooner

The local fishermen use the fact that the large fish travel in pairs when on the hunt for swordfish. Once a couple is spotted the fishermen usually target the female first as it is the larger of the two - using their love as a way to reel them in.

Extending 45 metres out from the front of the boat is a long light iron bridge, here the harpooner takes his position

Massimo, 45, said: “In this very narrow stretch of water that separates Sicily from the mainland, the most popular fish is the swordfish, which every year between the months of May and August travel in pairs from distant polar regions to mate.”

Like a scene out of the Shakespeare classic Romeo and Juliet, the male will not leave his mate’s side - putting his own life in danger.

Male and female swordfish often travel in pairs and once a couple is spotted the fishermen usually target the female first as it is the larger of the two

Massimo explained: “The fishermen know that once the female has been harpooned, the male will do everything he can to free her. He will not leave the scene without her.

“As result, he becomes a very easy target. The female, on the other hand, disappears at the first sign of danger.”

Swordfish are vigorous, powerful fighters, and when harpooned they become dangerous with their swords

The romantic tale of the swordfish has even inspired songs, such as ‘Lu pisci spada’ - The Swordfish - by singer and songwriter Domenico Modugno.

Massimo added: “And it’s not surprising that no songs have been written about the female. The theory is that she is acting in response to an instinct to save her young.”

The catch is sold to local restaurants and widely used in local dishes cooked in various ways

The boats used for this type of fishing are called ‘Passerella' or ‘Feluca.' Extending 45 metres out from the front of the boat is a long, light iron bridge. Here, the harpooner takes his position far away from the noise of the boat engine.

Massimo said: “The hunt begins with the spotters, whose job is to identify the presence of the swordfish and to inform the harpooner.

The fish is given a long length of line allowing it to dive into deep waters and weaken

“Once harpooned, the fish is given a lot of line and, with it, a temporary illusion of freedom. It quickly dives into deep waters and after a while, weakened from the struggle and loss of blood, it is hauled onto the boat.

“Swordfish are vigorous, powerful fighters, and when harpooned they become dangerous with their swords. It takes the entire crew to haul the fish and the first thing when in the boat is to cover its eyes to calm it down.

The male swordfish refuses to leave his mate's side - endangering his own life when being hunted

“From the initial sighting the battle between the man and the beast can typically last around one hour. It depends on the size and the spirit of the fish.”

He added: “Typical catch on a good day could be around 20 swordfish. It is not infrequent however that the fishermen’s efforts go unrewarded.”