鳥捉魚 bird catch fish
July 1, 2008 9:11 PM   Subscribe

For over a thousand years, fishermen all over the world have been using cormorants to help them fish in lakes and rivers. In Gifu, Gifu Prefecture, Japan, cormorant fishing on the Nagara river has continued uninterrupted for the past 1,300 years. In Guilin and Yangshuo, China, cormorant birds are famous for fishing on the shallow Lijiang River. The islands of the Beaver Island archipelago in Northern Lake Michigan host what may be the densest concentration of the big, black diving birds on the continent, an estimated 50,000 that eat about 9 million pounds of fish from the surrounding waters from spring through fall. Fishermen and tourism interests want the state and federal governments to cut the number of double-crested cormorants around the Beaver Island group by half, raising the ire of bird lovers and animal-rights activists who say the cormorants aren't at the root of the problem.
posted by mrducts (13 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

Fascinating! How many other animal-assisted hunting/fishing traditions are there?
posted by 5MeoCMP at 9:42 PM on July 1, 2008

That photo of the cormorant nesting area in Upper Michigan, in the "cut the number" link", is astonishing. It looks post-bomb Hiroshima.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 9:45 PM on July 1, 2008

I worked in Seattle with a local environmental non-profit for a while earlier this year. Sometimes, when I see stuff like this, I wonder if humanity itself is the next great market failure. DDT kills the birds so we stop producing DDT, but now the birds overproduce and there are no fish. Ecosystems are vast and complex places. I think they are too vast and too complex to be understood by us mortals. But then I see evidence that we can restore our planet to health intelligently.
posted by Parallax.Error at 9:46 PM on July 1, 2008

I see cormorants every day...hmmmm...metal ring + leash + torch = Profit!!!!!!!

Now if I can just get those damn Berkeley liberals to go along with my plan.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 10:02 PM on July 1, 2008

Fascinating! How many other animal-assisted hunting/fishing traditions are there?

Some use eagles.
posted by homunculus at 11:45 PM on July 1, 2008

I highly recommend Beaver Island as a get away from it all vacation destination. It's the land that time forgot, but I guess the Cormorants didn't. That is eerie. For Beaver Island this is one more very odd event in a strange history, which includes a Mormon Kingdom led by James Strang.
posted by caddis at 12:47 AM on July 2, 2008

How many other animal-assisted hunting/fishing traditions are there?

I'm having trouble thinking of a hunting tradition that isn't animal assisted - can you even go hunting without a retriever, terrier, setter, pointer, flusher or some other specially-bred and trained dog (or a pack of them, if you're after a fox for kicks)?
posted by jack_mo at 1:25 AM on July 2, 2008

Lots of fishing isn't animal assisted, though obviously some involves drowning worms.
posted by biffa at 2:52 AM on July 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

Cormorants are a big problem in Europe, where the are not native to inland and mountain water systems. They have been migrating inland to settle on reservoirs, and from there they have the nasty habit of cleaning every native trout out of the streams, and then going to work on eating out the trout hatcheries. A pair of cormorants can clean out a hatchery in a month. British anglers are pretty ticked off. In Slovakia, where I fish, cormorants are not labeled a game bird and can't be legally hunted, although locals occaisionally try to cull the growing flocks.

I don't like these birds. At all. These are bad birds! Bad Birds!
posted by zaelic at 3:26 AM on July 2, 2008

I have a number of cormorants right in front of my house (on a harbour) at different times of year, and I've always liked them. I'm a little confused by the suggestion they're not native, if they can fly somewhere and establish themselves then that seems a pretty natural expansion to me.
posted by biffa at 6:07 AM on July 2, 2008

I used to live in a village in Mie Prefecture not far from a town called Ugata, which means 'Way/path of the Cormorant'.

Great post!
posted by Cantdosleepy at 7:07 AM on July 2, 2008

Anthony Bourdain went out with a cormorant fisherman on his Indonesia show I think. Or the Shanghai show. Not sure. Anyway it was pretty damn cool.
posted by spicynuts at 8:27 AM on July 2, 2008

The cormorants should ask the wolves and cougars and seals about this one. Predators who eat food or kill trophy game that humans want themselves soon get targeted.
posted by salvia at 10:02 AM on July 2, 2008

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