photog by weerapong chaipuck on li river, near xingping in guangxi province. for thousands of years, fishermen have used domesticated cormorants to fish the rivers and lakes of china.
they spend years training the seabirds to catch large fish which they return to the boat in exchange for smaller fish. it’s believed that cormorants can keep an approximate tally of the fish they catch and if they aren’t sufficiently rewarded for their efforts, they stop diving after fish for the fishermen.
thanks to large scale industrial fishing, the practice, however, has now all but died out, with only a handful left to keep the tradition alive.
(as an aside of interest to probably no one else but me, some scholars speculate that the lack of mention by marco polo of cormorant fishing in his famous travelogue is proof that he never did actually venture to china. others – and again, this is probably of interest to no one but me – counter that it’s not that surprising an omission.)