Dali's cormorants return to lake for tourism show

Cormorant fishing has been perpetuated by the villagers of Xizhousha Village(喜洲沙村) for decades. [China Daily]
The cormorant catches a big fish. [China Daily] 

Cormorant has been an important cultural and historical symbol of Bai Nationality in Xizhousha Village of Dali Bai Autonomous Prefecture.

At the edge of Erhai Lake, a tradition of cormorant fishing has been perpetuated by the villagers for decades.

Cormorant is a distinctive kind of bird featured with talent of catching fish under water. They are good at diving, yet their hooked beaks are long and sharp, and their keen eyesight enables them to find preys in ten meters.

The life expectancy of a cormorant ranges from 15 to 20 years in normal. A young cormorant has to be trained for at least 6 months before growing into an adept fish hunter.

The tradition has seen ups and downs over its inheritance

Villagers there used to live on fishing. As the most practical and popular way of fishing, cormorant fishing had seen a sustained boom in the village before the 1980s.

At the end of the 1990s, local government launched several restrictions on fishing in Erhai Lake. From 2006, Erhai Lake ban fishing in the lake to protect the ecological environment of the lake, resulting the downturn in cormorant fishing.

Besides, high cost is another reason for the lessening. According to Yang Yufan(杨玉藩), a 50-year-old cormorant fisherman, the cost for raising a cormorant is about 10 yuan per day.

Yang has witnessed the downturn of cormorant fishing. In his memory, more than 70 households raised cormorants in the late of the 1990s, but only 4 households are still raising cormorants now.

"There were 1,500 cormorants in Xizhou Town in the 1990s. Up to the year of 2005, only 180 cormorants were left." said Yang.

Tourist development alters an alternative way for reserving cormorant fishing

Cormorant fishing performance was officially presented to tourists in July of 2006.

According to Yang, hundreds of tourists visit the village to watch the performance every day. Sometimes, the number even mounts up to around one thousand. By now, over 2 million tourists from home and abroad have been attracted ever since the year of 2008.

With the growing reputation, cormorant fishing was listed as a Provincial Intangible Cultural Heritage in 2009.

Cormorant fishing performance not only protects the cultural intangible heritage from extinction, but also makes the virtual unknown Xizhousha Village a renowned tourist destination.

"Cormorant fishing in Erhai has become a tourism card for Dali now." said You Fan(又凡), an official of Dali Tourism Development Management Committee.

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(Editors: Tracy, Lynn)

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