O sector das pescas tem marcado profundamente o concelho de Peniche, quer pelas suas condições naturais quer pelas infraestruturas criadas ao longo de séculos de história de uma população que viu nas pescas um importante recurso económico. A testemunhar este historial existem os pesos de rede em cerâmica, da época romana, ou os ossos de baleia depositados na Igreja de S. Leonardo, em Atouguia da Baleia. A pesca em Peniche foi evoluindo ao longo dos anos, sofrendo especial transformação durante o primeiro quartel do séc. XX, período em que a traineira e a pesca de cerco, substituíram uma variedade de técnicas tradicionais, como as armações à valenciana, as sacadas, os cercos volantes, as caçadas de sardinheiras, ou as redes de lagosta.
The fisheries sector have deeply marked the Peniche municipality, either by its natural conditions or by the infrastructures created over centuries of history of a population that saw fisheries as an important economic resource. As witness of this past there are ceramic net weights from Roman times, or whale bones deposited in the church of S. Leonardo, in Atouguia da Baleia.
The fishing intensity was such that the Captaincy, businessmen and captains agreed to compartmentalize the exploration area accordingly with users and fishing gear. Today the arc of sardines defines the limit as far as the purse-seiners sail to deploy their fishing gear. Already in 1984, a decree was approved for the regulation of net fisheries in Berlengas, Estelas and Farilhões, indicating the places and times when it was permitted to fish. Later in 1903, it was created the decree which approved the Sardines fishing Regulation, setting the places where it was allowed to use the Valencian and rounded traps in the waters surrounding Peniche.
Fisheries in Peniche have evolved over the years, undergoing deep changes mainly during the early years of the XX century, during which the purse seiner fishery replaced a variety of traditional techniques such as Valencian traps, beach seines, “sacadas”, “caçadas de sardinheiras”, or lobster nets. By this time, sardine fisheries became the identity of Peniche population and defined the mental and material landscape from Peniche people “Penicheiros”, diluting the rest of the economy and culture.
While the importance of fisheries in the county´s economy has been declining, reflecting on the number of people working on this activity and on the amount of fish landed, currently Peniche is still the second biggest national fishing port in terms of volume of fish landed and the biggest port in terms of value of landings. The main target species are the sea bass, sole, sardines, octopus and cuttlefish, all considered of high commercial value.
In October 2009, the sardine fishery was certified, ensuring the consumer that the fishing of this species is carried out in a sustainable manner. Meanwhile, the certification was withdrawn due to problems related with the health of the sardines stocks.
Fisheries in Peniche are also directly related to the Berlengas archipelago. Formerly, there were several destructive fishing practices happening which included dynamite fishing, lamp fishing, beach purse seine, traps and creels, but all of these gears were abolished a few decades ago due to the high impacts on the fisheries resources and ecosystem. Spearfishing was also widely practiced, especially for sea bass and shark, but is currently prohibited. Nowadays, the fishing gear allowed in the Berlengas Nature Reserve includes purse seine and longline. The main captured fish species are Atlantic chub mackerel and horse mackerel, sardines, sea bass and sea bream.