For more than 1000 years fishermen in Yangshuo have used trained cormorants to fish in the rivers. Going out on the Li River at night to watch these fishermen at work is one of the most popular activities of Yanshuo’s nightlife. This way of fishing has existed in china for generations and over the years, it has become a way to earn money and attract the tourist.
We were taken out onto the river in a small boat and got to cruise next to the fishermen at work on their bamboo rafts.
The birds are taken by the fisherman at a young age and become bonded to them. They then catch fish according to natural instincts but are prevented from swallowing all but the smallest fish by a ring placed around their neck during the fishing process. However, the birds are not stupid and refuse to catch more fish unless they are rewarded occasionally which the fishermen do with small crabs and fish.
With an order from the fisherman, the well-trained cormorants dove into the water to find fish and catch them. They are so good at diving that they went under water for quite a long time. When they succeed in getting any fish, they proudly swam back to the raft with their catch.
The fisherman then has the bird spit the fish up and sends him back into the water again. My impression was that they looked quite healthy and were enjoying diving into the river after the fish. They were treated very well by the fisherman who looked very serene standing atop his bamboo raft.
It was a short trip, about 40 minutes but it included a stop for photos where I actually got to hold one of the cormorants!