The Ancient Art of Fishing With Cormorants in China (Videos)

This video shows the traditional method used by fishermen on the Li River or Lijiang with trained cormorants to catch freshwater fish.

Cormorant fishing began in Japan during the 6th century, and was picked up in North and Central China in the 7th century during the Tang dynasty.

The fisherman ties a snare low on the bird’s throat to stop it swallowing big fish. However it can eat small ones.

There are several species of cormorant in China, but the one used most is the Great or Common Cormorant, Phalacrocorax carbo, which is called putong luci or luci in Chinese, and is black.

Cormorants don’t secrete oil to waterproof their feathers, like most other water birds, which means that periodically they have to perch and dry off their feathers. Some of the fishermen provide special sticks off the side of their boats just for this purpose.

The fact that the birds don’t have oily feathers means that they are less buoyant so they can dive more easily, deeper, and for longer. Cormorants can go down to about 65 feet and not need to surface for several minutes, although they prefer to dive near the surface.

These days there aren’t many cormorant fishermen around, except for tourist shows, as young people are moving away from traditional occupations, people eat a more varied diet, and also there are fewer fish.

Here’s another video showing them working at dusk:




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