November 19, 2009

Gone Fishing

A fleet of two rowboats set sail on to the waters of Lake Erhai, near the town of Dali in southwestern China. Evenly distributed among the boats were two oarsmen. One boat also carried a fisherman from the indigenous Bai minority and ten cormorants. The other carried our intrepid protagonist. The big seabirds were perched on the edge of the fisherman's boat. When fish were in the vicinity the cormorants would dive from the surface into the depths beneath to capture their unsuspecting prey.

Almost hunted to extinction by people who saw them as competition for the same fishy resource, humans and cormorants now cooperate to some extent. As the boats ventured further into the 40 kilometre long lake, the birds of prey sprung into action. Some splashes later, a few of the cormorants emerged with freshly caught fish in their beaks. The fisherman pulled the birds out of the lake and back onto the boat. He now had to coax them into letting go of the fish before they swallowed them. After some encouragement from their human master in the form of treats, the cormorants let go of the still squirming fish. With a healthy catch of two large fish and several smaller ones, the boats headed back to a nearby fishing village.


"The gods do not deduct from man's allotted span the hours spent in fishing."
~ Babylonian Proverb