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Watch: Cormorant Fishing

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They tie strings around the birds’ necks and send them out into the river to do their thing. Cormorants eat fish, and even though their throats are cinched so they can’t swallow they still try to eat them anyway. The result is the perfect fishing implement.

There are still fishermen in China that use teams of cormorants to gather fish for them. They go out on rivers and lakes in boats that typically have perches for the the birds to ride on. When they come to a good fishing ground the cormorants have their necks tied and they are sent out into the water. They swim and dive, hunt fish and then carry them in their throats back to the fisherman, who retrieves them.

The following video and photos of cormorant fishing were taken on the outskirts of Jiangsu Taizhou in the spring of 2013.

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This method of fishing has been taking place in China and Japan since at least 960. Like most of China’s other ancient traditions, cormorant fishing is currently at an advance state of fading away into history. Tourism has helped to preserve the practice in some parts of the country, but this is more or less a “cultural zoo” type of initiative — but this still has value.

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Filed under: Animals, China, Culture and Society, Disappearing Traditions, Fishing

About the Author:

Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 68 countries. He is the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to Forbes, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3031 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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