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Lessons from an Italian Fishing Community

How one small stretch of coastline went from a hotbed of drug smuggling to a model of ecological restoration.

When Cosimo Di Biasi, 66, decides it’s the right day to fish, he begins at 5 p.m. He drives 4 miles to the port of Torre Santa Sabina, boards Nonno Ugo, his 21-foot fiberglass boat, and navigates south for a half-hour to reach a marine reserve in Puglia, in southern Italy.

The rocky coast is interspersed with sandy beaches, and at the tip of a tiny peninsula, a majestic tower overlooks the coast. Built by the Aragonese in the 16th century to spot the invading Turkish, the tower is now the symbol of Torre Guaceto—a marine reserve spanning 5,400 acres of sea and 5 miles of coastline, where only five boats and seven fishers are allowed to fish.

Di Biasi has been operating in the area since he was 10. He would skip school to fish with his father, and he would bring baskets of fish to the teacher to excuse his absences. Still, she failed him in grade six three times.

When his boat is in position, Di Biasi throws the half-mile-long leaded net into the water, which is then held up by a series of floating buoys. After this…

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