Cormorant Fishing in China: Using Birds to Catch Fish

Cormorant Fishing in China: Using Birds to Catch Fish


Guillin On the lovely Li River. Locals have fished these waters for over 1,000 years. Though lately, the explosive growth of riverside towns like Yangshuo has threatened both the river and their way of life. Forcing many to move aboard their boats. These once quiet waters now swarm with tour boats. Tourism brings jobs, trash, and traffic, but in this case it’s also caused the fish stock to crash. In 2011 the government forbade net fishing
for several months each year while they tried to restock the Li with fingerlings. Faced with no way to feed their families, a few of the more ingenious fishermen decided to revive an ancient tradition, Using birds to fish. Cormorants, to be exact. Though they quickly realized they
could make more money showing tourists than they do from selling the fish. The birds are raised by hand half slave, half pet and are reasonably tame. He starts by tying a thin cord around the bird’s neck. This prevents it from swallowing larger fish. Cormorants have been used in Asia to catch
fish for well over 1,000 years. Each bird weighs over 10 pounds. Their short wings and webbed feet
propel them through the water like missiles. But they can’t fly particularly well. They hunt together like wolves. A team of cormorants can catch
20-30 large fish in an evening. Once they’ve caught a fish he pulls them in and relieves them of it. Cormorants are supposed to be quite smart. These guys know when their master
has had too much to drink and take full advantage. I wonder how many times each fish is getting eaten? Once they’re done he unties the string around their necks and leashes them. They have an interesting relationship. Those beaks could really do him harm but they hold back and so does he. They have to dry their feathers out immediately. Cormorants don’t secrete protective oil, so they can die of cold. And then they finally get to eat. It’s astonishing how much they can swallow. Unless he’s forgotten to untie their string. A few creative fishermen have come up with
an even better way of making money. Why bother catching fish when all you really have to do is cook them? They invite tourists onto their live-aboard
boats for an evening meal. The view is stunning though you probably don’t want
to know where the food has been. At least there’s beer. And a chance to see what life is like aboard a boat. In the end, the tourism that is transforming rural China may save the fishermen and their way of life. and perhaps the Li river as well.

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