Along the Li and Yulong rivers near Yangshuo, China, traditional fishermen still practice a thousand-year-old technique of fishing with birds. Why use a net or rod when you can employ a trusty cormorant whose skill, instincts and passion for fishing are finely tuned by years of evolution? Of course, convincing a feathered friend to be your sidekick is no simple task. It takes years of dedication to train a bird into a willing fishing partner. Check out the video below and see the process in action.
Essentially, the fisherman ties a cord near the base of the longnecked seabird’s gullet to prevent it from swallowing any large fish it snaps up in a dive (they can dive up to 100 feet!). When the cormorant returns to the surface, the man retrieves the fish and rewards the bird with a smaller fish, which it can eat with no problem. In time, through close care and attention – including stroking and massages – the domesticated cormorants become like trusted pets rather than servants, content to perch on a bamboo pole awaiting the next hunt.
At dawn, the rivers and tributaries near Yangshuo are dotted with a few fisherman still practicing this primitive technique. They take reed rafts out on the water with their avian assistants in tow, and patiently collect carp.
They only catch about 4 kg of fish each day, which is peanuts compared to what other fishing (or over-fishing) techniques can produce. This way is ecologically balanced, as each fisherman catches only what he needs.
Today they are mostly keeping this ancient art and tradition alive for the tourists. However, there are worse ways to spend a day besides floating on a river flanked by the stunning karst mountains of the region.