Amazing Skill!Unique Fish Catching Technique – Sulfuric Fire Fishing

Taiwan’s Fire-Fishing Boats

It’s pitch black on Taiwan’s waters, and in a few minutes, all hell will break loose. A boom and blaze of fire explode into the night sky, followed by the sour stench of sulphur. Thousands of tiny, ray-finned sardines suddenly leap out of the Pacific Ocean—in a wild, graceless dance—hurling themselves toward the scorching flames. Meanwhile, fishermen work feverishly to scoop them up, before they plunge back into the sea. The scene is utter chaos.

Taiwan’s last remaining “fire fishing” boat.

The Dying of the Light: Men who Fish with Fire

Traditional sulphuric fire fishing is a century-plus-old practice found only in Jinshan, a sleepy port city near the northern tip of Taiwan. Fishermen use a bamboo torch and soft sulphuric rocks to ignite a fire fierce enough to drive hordes of silver-scaled sardines to the water’s surface. And the golden hour for making fish fly? Set sail during a “moonless night,” when the sun has long dipped below the horizon and the fish are starving for light, says a boat captain who’s been fire fishing for more than half a century. The season for sulfuric fire fishing is from May to August.

How people light up the stone
Many fishes are attracted towards light just as moths and flying ants are – a behavior that fishermen around the world exploit to bring them together and keep them in one place until they could be caught. Most fishes that are caught using light are pelagic fish, such as herring, mackerel, sprat, anchovy, and sardine. These fishes spend most of their time swimming near the surface of the water, making them easy to prey upon.
After decades of practice, the fishermen have an almost psychic sense for where the most fish will be.
Under the nightfall, the captain blows the first whistle to indicate the direction then blows the second whistle to observe the school of fish and blows the third whistle to commend the fire lit. The process requires great teamwork and skills. It would be a failure if any link is missed. And if there is any misjudgment, the fishermen will end up catching nothing. Only by participating in this work can one feel how difficult it is.
The fire flares up, viewed through the large bulbous light on the viewing vessel, and the fire master searches the glowing water for fish.

The fishermen spend up to six hours a night at sea during this period. On a good night of fishing, they might catch between three and four tons of sardines, which can earn them over $4,500 – a tiny fraction of a larger fishing industry.

It takes luck to have a harvest

Young people are unwilling to continue the tradition because of the exhausting work and unstable pay. They are more likely to work on modern commercial-fishing ships that use electric lights to attract fish where the rewards are better. Consequently, the only ones left holding the torch are all over sixty years of age.

Sulfuric fishing is now facing a challenging future

The sulfuric fire fishing has been developed for a hundred years. Thirty years ago, sulfuric fire fishing is widely used at the northeastern shore. There were 300 fishing boats engaged in sulfuric fire fishing. But now, because of the aging population and the outflow of the youth population, there are only 4 left. Most of the fishing boats have given up the traditional way and adapt the modern technique to catch the fish.

Profit from modern fishing method is much higher than traditional fishing method

Catching Japanese scaled sardine is not profitable, and the fishing season is only 4 months.It’s hard for the fisherfolks to maintain their living. Though their lives are hard, they are still dedicated to keeping this cultural scene. They know that if they abandon this skill, it will be lost forever. Now they are endeavor to transforming this industry into tourism so people in the future will not forget this old Taiwanese wisdom.
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