Ukai or Cormorant Fishing in Japan.

Today's collaboration with Cellar Image of the Day brings us this image of a unique way of fishing: using cormorant birds!

From Yamasa Institute's Japan Travel Guide:

Ukai, or cormorant fishing, is a traditional method of river fishing that has been practiced in Japan for some 1300 years. This method involves fishermen using cormorant birds on leashes to catch sweetfish (such as the Ayu). Ukai is not as widespread as it once was, because it is no longer an economically viable form of fishing. However it has managed to preserve its traditions and is increasingly popular with tourists.

How do they stop the bird from just eating the fish?

Every time a cormorant manages to catch a fish, the Usho pulls them back into the boat and forces them to disgorge the fish. Why don't the cormorants just eat the fish, you ask? Because the metal ring around the base of the cormorants neck is just large enough to let extremely small fish through, but too small to let a bird swallow any fish of the size that fishermen, tourists and imperial family members are hoping to eat.

Cormorant fishing is also practiced in China, but with this difference: in China, cormorants are like beloved pets to the fisherman. He would train the bird to catch and release the fish instead of swallowing it. (see: Gil Azouri's Li River Cormorant Fisherman)

For more interesting pics (updated daily), check out Cellar IotD.


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I once spotted something called a 'kagaribi' in a japanese-english dictionary, which listed it as a 'fishing fire.' Is that what we're seeing in this picture? Does it serve any other function than, well, providing light? Looks dangerous.
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i saw a documentary many years ago called, 'he dances for his cormorants,' which follows a cormorant fisherman and shows the process of raising and breeding cormorants as well as the fishing process. if anyone can get there hands on it, it is a wonderful and very well-made documentary.
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I live just down the train line from the town where this is still pretty popular and would imagine the photo was taken (Uji). They don't really catch many fish these days, as the river is a bit overfished and a tad gross.
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