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a secular tradition

“Xávega”: traditional fishing art of Aveiro Region

The traditional fishing art brings a unique vibrancy to the beaches where it is practiced in the Aveiro Region: Areão, Torreira, and Vagueira.


The Aveiro Region is renowned for the tradition of “Xávega” Art. This practice plays a crucial role in affirming and valorizing the region’s cultural heritage.

It is a legacy passed down by the ancestors to the local fishing community and the people of the land, ensuring that this art form remains alive and continues to be an integral part of the living heritage of the Aveiro Region.

what is “Xávega” Art?

From livelihood to tradition

The origins of “Xávega” art in the lagoon region of Aveiro can be traced back to the mid-18th century, establishing the first fishing company in 1751.

“Xávega” art derived from the Arabic term “xábaka,” is a traditional artisanal drag-net fishing method. It involves casting a net into the sea from a boat while leaving one end of the rope, called the “reçoeiro,” on land. After deploying the net, the ship returns to the beach, bringing the other end of the rope known as the “mão-de-Barca.” The hauling process begins simultaneously on both ropes, pulling the net towards the shore while keeping the mouth of the net open using buoys. The “xávega” concludes with the arrival on the beach and the net’s opening to reveal the catch.

“Xávega” art is defined by its distinctive fishing gear – the nets and boats – rather than the method of traction used during the hauling process. Initially, hauling was done manually by fishermen, later aided by animal traction using multiple teams of oxen, and nowadays, it is commonly performed with the assistance of tractors.

A day of fishing consists of a variable number of “lanços” (fishing trips) that can range from several to just one, depending on various factors such as sea conditions, the capacity of the fishing crew, the quantity, and quality of the catch, as well as the demand and sale of the fish.

Rites and customs

A Time-Honored Tradition Passed Down Through Generations

Experience the Timeless fishing art of “Xávega” along the Areão, Vagueira, and Torreira Beaches.

Immerse yourself in the captivating tradition of “Xávega Art” as you witness the skilled fishermen of the Aveiro region carry on this ancient practice along the shores of Areão, Vagueira, and Torreira. Their wooden boats bravely face the crashing waves, creating a mesmerizing sight that has become a significant attraction for tourists in the area.

The art of “Xávega” is carried out by groups of fishermen known as “Companhas” dedicated to a specific boat. Each “Companha” is divided into two groups: the “men of the sea” and the “men of the land.” Currently, four “Companhas” are practicing this art in the Aveiro region, with two located in Murtosa and two in Vagos.

This traditional fishing activity is seasonal, mainly from March to October, when the sea conditions are most favorable. During the off-season, the fishermen prepare the nets and maintain their boats while engaging in secondary activities such as agriculture or construction. The intricate knowledge and skills required for crafting and handling the nets have been passed down from generation to generation, with fathers passing on their expertise to their sons and learning from experienced net makers in the region.

Curiosities on the Xavega Art

Arte Xávega ao vivo | Riv'arte

The “companhas”

Due to its complexity, not many professionals possess this know-how. Currently, in Murtosa, you can find Marco Silva from “Companha Maria de Fátima” and Bruno Murta from “Companha Olá S. Paio.”
In Vagos, there are João Esteves from “Companha Valdemar,” Carlos Alberto Silva, and João Carlos Silva (father and son) from “Companha João da Murtosa.”
In Albergaria-a-Velha, Almerinda Marques is an expert in the nets’ reparation.

Arte Xávega ao vivo | Riv'arte

The boats

The boats used in Xávega Art, known as “barco do mar” (sea boat), have a flat and arched bottom shape resembling a half-moon, with a highly raised bow to easily cross the surf zone. Today, there are still a few active Master Shipbuilders. In Estarreja, we have the masters Felisberto Amador, António Esteves, and Arménio Almeida. In Murtosa, we can find the masters Marco Silva and José Rito.

arte xávega redes

The nets

The nets used in Xávega Art consist of two sleeves and a bag. They have a maximum bag length of 50 meters, wing lengths of 380 meters, and hauling ropes reaching up to 3000 meters. The nets used in the activity today are very similar to those used in the past, with the main difference being their dimensions and materials. Linen has been replaced by nylon, polypropylene, and polyethylene.

The companhas e their arrais

Embark on one of the four experiences we have created for you.

Experiences to

Enjoy on rainy days

In the region of Aveiro, on rainy days, there is plenty to see and do. Indoor activities include fascinating museums and interactive experiences promoting leisure and fun moments in enclosed environments.
Experiences to

Explore as a student

The region of Aveiro boasts a rich history, architectural and artistic diversity, and a solid connection to the Ria de Aveiro, which has always influenced the region's local culture. Are you studying in Aveiro? Immerse yourself in the local culture.
Experiences to

De-stress after work

Throughout the year, the region of Aveiro offers various enjoyable activities to make the most of the last rays of sunshine at the end of the day and unwind relaxedly.
Experiences to

Learn from the masters

The region of Aveiro is renowned for its rich artisanal tradition and the variety of arts and crafts. If you love local culture, take advantage of your days in the Aveiro region to visit and learn from the masters, the true guardians of cultural and traditional wisdom.