Cormorant fishing on the Li River in southeastern China

Fishermen in China have been training birds to fish on their behalf for more than 1,000 years. It is common in southeastern China, on the Li River in Guilin. It is also common in Japan, where fishermen have been using cormorant birds to fish for even longer.

The way it works is simple: The fisherman will tie a string around the bird's neck. The string serves as a leash, and it also prevents the cormorant from swallowing larger, more valuable fish. The birds are able to swallow smaller fish, their food, but the larger fish are retrieved by the fisherman, who reels the bird back to the boat, where the bird spits their catch into a woven basket.

Today's fishermen make far more money showing off for tourists than they do selling fish. Tonight I paid 40 元 ($6.16 USD) to watch a village fisherman put on a one-hour cormorant show, a bit of which I filmed. In the video below, one of the birds catches a fish worth keeping.