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How to Fish with Fire

(Photo: Tyrone Siu/Reuters)

For hundreds of years, fishermen in Taiwan have used fire to catch sardines. When a fisherman holds a firey stick over the water, sardines leap out to chase it. That's when other fishermen sweep in with nets to catch them.

It used to be a common practice, but now there are only about 3 boats left that still use fire fishing. They operate at nighttime from May to July. On a good night, a crew can get 3-4 tons of sardines, which will sell for about $4,500. Reuters reports:

"My daily earnings are unstable, but for a living I need to sail," Jian Kun, a 60-year-old boat owner, tells Reuters of the fire fishermen's plight.

The government provides a subsidy to the fishermen to encourage them to continue fire fishing and also filed the technique to the Department of Cultural Affairs for registration as a cultural asset in 2014.

And the annual Jinshan Sulphuric Fire Fishing festival was started in 2013 to help promote the practice, while photography tours have been set up to generate interest and boost finances.

The method of lighting the fire has been updated to include the use of calcium carbide, but the boats are old, with little to ease the physical toll on the fishermen who average around 60 years old.

-via Jonah Goldberg


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