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Watch: Chinese Electrofishing post image

Watch: Chinese Electrofishing

How fishermen on Xiamen island use electricity to catch fish.

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During low tide on Xiamen island hundreds of people walk out into the surf with their fishing gear. But they don’t have rods and reels, nets or traps: they have electrodes. They fish with electricity.

They have these rigged up electrofishing apparatuses that consist of a battery and two bamboo poles. On one of the poles there is a metal prong, on the other is a metal net. The battery has straps connected to it, and it is worn backpack style. Two wires are extended from the battery down through the bamboo rods and connect to the metal end pieces.

This fishing device is used by going out onto the wet part of a beach or in the surf and placing both electrodes down in the water. Electricity is sent between the two metal end pieces creating a circuit. Anything that gets caught in between is zapped.

The voltage is generally not strong enough to kill the fish. Rather, it causes galvanotaxis: uncontrolled muscle spasms that make them flop and move towards the anode. During this temporary paralysis, the fisherman scoops them up.

On Xiamen, the fishermen mostly use electrofishing to get these little eels that burrow down into the sand. When they were zapped by the current from the electrodes they would pop up to the surface and flop around in front of the fishermen, where they could easily be grabbed and put in a bucket.

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Filed under: China, Fishing

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 91 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3717 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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