In China, Chinese fishermen use cormorant birds for fishing

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fishing with cormorants
fishing with cormorants

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Catching river fish using cormorant birds is

  • good. They help fishermen earn a living. The practice attracts tourists.
  • bad. The practice is a form of cruelty to the poor birds.
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Cormorant fishing in Nagara, Gifu, Japan

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Catching fish with birds is amazing

DAYS before this hub saw print- I was tossing in bed unable to go to sleep when the story about Chinese fishermen catching fish with the use of cormorant birds that I saw in the TV some years back flashed in my mind. I decided to retell the story to the world at large because I'm sure readers would relish it approvingly because of its uniqueness and antiquity. I believed it's a good reading material for people to develop persistence, perseverance and love of work.

So despite drowsiness- I managed to walk towards my computer. I surfed and surfed the internet and soon was able to locate all the data relative to the subject. It was past midnight when I went back to bed to sleep- but happy in the thought that I was able to accomplish fully the data gathering task

About cormorant birds

To begin the story with, cormorants are diving seabirds about 90 centimeters or 3 feet long, with webbed feet, a long neck, hooked beak and glossy black plumage. They feed on fish and shellfish which they catch by swimming and diving deep under water. They collect the food in a pouch formed by the dilatable skin at the front of the throat. Some species breed on inland lakes and rivers. There are about 30 species of cormorant worldwide.

Chinese fishermen train cormorants to catch fish

Some 400 years back- Chinese fishermen conceived the idea that cormorants can help them earn a living some day. While fishermen in other regions of the earth considered these birds as a pest - this negative assumption didn't dampen their spirit from pursuing their dream of owning cormorant pets to catch fish for them. They knew pretty well that cormorants thrive on fresh fish and can dive well underwater to catch them. By applying little ingenuity - the fishermen resolved to do something positive to realize their goal.

Their main motive would be to tame and train them to dive and catch fish on command. They committed so many trials and errors. One day they arrived at a system which they thought was good enough. To begin with - they secured fresh cormorant eggs from available sources or eggs laid by cormorants already domesticated and docile. They then looked for sitting mother hens to have them sat on the cormorant eggs.

From birth up, cormorants are under the fisherman's care

Great care and sacrifices are done by fishermen from hatching period until the time the birdlings are old and strong enough to help in the catching of fish. It is customary for fishermen to oversee the well-being of the sitting mother hen. So wherever the fishermen are - be it at home or in the river fishing - they prefer to carry with them the basket-nest where hen and all are in. One good reason is to acclimatize the cormorants to the real weather conditions - especially if they're already hatchlings.

A day before hatching - the fishermen transfer the cormorant eggs to a sealed cubicle in the corner of the house where the temperature inside is likely the same as that of the sitting hen. The reason obviously is to prevent trouble. If the hen herself is left to hatch the eggs - she may disliked and picked to death her strange-looking chick. Newly hatched birdlings are prey to various predators. They must be free from ants, rodents and cats, etc. They're ugly to look at. They've big eyes, big head and long, slender limbs. With a shrieking voice - they opened their mouths for food when hungry. Usually, the feeding is done by the hand of any member of the household. Chinese fishermen are expert in this regard and knew what best food to feed them besides fish.

Actual catching of fish by cormorants and fisherman

Best time to go catching fish in the river is night time. By experience and other traditional considerations - like the tide and the position and shapes of the moon and stars - Chinese fishers knew by heart where to find fish aplenty. By the use of small boats or bamboos tied together as raft - they set sail to their targeted fishing ground. They pushed and pushed the boat seaward with their long but light bamboo poles. Perched on the banca's outriggers or on one side of the bamboo rafts are the trained and domesticated cormorant divers. Their number may vary from one fisherman to the other.

Reaching the fishing ground - the fishers dropped and fixed anchor. The birds are now alert and waiting for the "Go catch fish" signal. When things are ready - the fishers now drop all the cormorant birds onto the water surface. Then with the same long bamboo poles - they strike a big splash sound on the water for the birds to begin fishing. The birds then dived deep down underwater to search, chase and catch fish. It's truly exciting to watch their head bobbed up and down, with their throat and mouth full of fish catch. The fishermen haul them one at a time to the boat to regurgitate their catch into a basket. If not - they removed the fish from their throat to hasten the process. The cormorant birds are prevented from swallowing their catch because around their necks are fitted rings which were intentionally placed before their dive. After coughing - up their catch - they are thrown back into the water to continue the fish-catching process. When the fishermen had enough catch - they removed the rings and the cormorant are given their meal. A cormorant spits out 15 kilos of fish in a good day. Species of river fish that cormorants can catch are- zander, perch, pike, "sweetfish" , eels, trout, bass, etc. Cormorants have been recorded to eat 86 different species of fish.

Fisherman-cormorants relationship

It is gratifying to learn that domesticated cormorants are treated like family members. Masters and cormorants dine together. The birds are provided their own safe roost during the night and the rest of the day away from work. They have trained the birds so well that from birth to death they became totally dependent on their masters for their existence. They are fed well and talked to just like humans. They readily recognized their master's voice and their idiosyncracies. They never attempt to leave their masters away. Such is the relationship obtaining between them - symbiotic or give and take. Their Chinese masters took extra care and feds them well while the cormorants catch fish for their masters in return.

NOTE: Cormorant fishing isn't a monopoly of China. Other countries as well are practicing it.. A cormorant bird costs from $100 to $200.

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Comments 2 comments

cindy 4 years ago

thank u!!! very much!! i really appreciate what u wrote, and it really helped me with it. glad that u wrote it.


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nick071438 4 years ago from City of Catbalogan, W, Samar, Philippines Author

Thanks a lot Cindy for appreciating this hub.

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