Fishing with Fire: a photo essay

Fishermen use a fire to attract fish on a traditional “sulfuric fire fishing" boat in New Taipei City, Taiwan June 19, 2016. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu SEARCH "FIRE FISHING" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "THE WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

Fishermen use a fire to attract fish on a traditional “sulfuric fire fishing” boat in New Taipei City, Taiwan June 19, 2016. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

By Tyrone Siu 
July, 2016

Under the darkness of the night sky, a small group of Taiwan fishermen set sail off the northeast coast, light a fire on the end of a bamboo stick using chemicals and wait for the fish to come.

Like a magnet, hundreds of sardines leap out of the water towards the bright light waved by one fisherman and his colleagues angle their nets and haul in the catch.

There used to be 300 boats using the traditional fire fishing method each night but now there are only three, according to the local fishermen’s association in Jinshan District, north of Taipei.

The 30 or so remaining fishermen have a three-month seasonal window from May to July where they can catch sardines using fire, a practice that dates back hundreds of years, the association says.

The fishermen spend up to six hours a night at sea to catch between three and four tons of sardines, which can earn them, on a really good night, over $4,500. Only bad weather forces them to shore early.

“My daily earnings are unstable, but for a living I need to sail,” Jian Kun, a 60-year-old boat owner, said 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.

Copyright Reuters 2016

The Wider Image: Fishing with fire

 ~~~

Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded by our readers. It is ad-free and spam-free, and does not solicit donations from partisan organizations. To continue we require a minimum payment of .27 for one story, or a sustaining donation. Details here; donate below. Thanks for your interest and support.

F&O’s CONTENTS page is updated each Saturday. Sign up for emailed announcements of new work on our free FRONTLINES blog; find evidence-based reporting in Reports; commentary, analysis and creative non-fiction in OPINION-FEATURES; and image galleries in PHOTO-ESSAYS. If you value journalism please support F&O, and tell others about us.