Chinese nets

These great wooden contraptions protrude from their jetties like giant spiders above a web of netting. There are only a few dozen left in the world and they’re all here in Kochi. They were first brought in the 15th century by Chinese traders from the court of Kubla Kahn, probably to impress the Indians with Chinese technological prowess. This method of sustainable fishing is dying out now – just a few of the nets remain and many of them are kept solely as a tourist attraction, with the fishermen earning more from charging tourists to take pictures than from selling fish.

But any fish they do catch are sold in the market stalls on the shore behind, with the profits being split: 30% for the contraption’s owner and the remaining 70% shared among the co-operative of fishermen working the net. Before the 2004 Asian tsunami, each net would catch 25-40 kilos of fish a day; now it’s just 3-5 kilos. The nets work according to the tides, dipping up and down 300-400 times a day at high tide.

On Wednesday, all fishing ceased and the shore was ramjammed with Queen Mary IIlocal people who’d come to watch the enormous Queen Mary II liner leaving Kochi port – even the parade ground was emptied of its multiple cricket games. She was worth waiting for: a huge white vessel cruising under British and (temporary) Indian flags. “World’s number-one ship,” one Keralan told us, proud that she’d visited his port. But she travels grubbily, beneath a black cloud of smoke that billows from her gigantic stack. Shipping emissions are not yet included in international carbon-reduction targets, but shipping produces twice as much carbon per year as aviation does. And the industry is also responsible for other nasties including sulphur and soot, which are a health hazard and alter weather patterns.

Too many videos this time? Let me know…

8 thoughts

  1. Hi Gaia,

    Very very good. Just one thing: A microphone would minimize background noise; I’m sure you could easily plug it into your video camera. I look forward to your next posts.

    1. The audio is a big problem, actually, because the cheap video recorder we have has no mic jack so we can’t plug in a better mic. I guess we’ll just have to practice until we get the sound better!

  2. Hey Gaia,
    Great stuff as ever! I had no idea those dudes had fishing nets like that. Why bother going out in a boat when you can sit about and wait for the fish to come to you? I like their style. Archimedes would’ve been proud too. Though maybe a little shocked to see it going on in the 21st century. Tell your saner half I’m loving the photos, though it’s all making me deeply jealous. Are you taking video requests? If so, I think a motorised rickshaw-cam piece is a must. Oh, and any parasite updates? Keep it up, it’s a brilliant project x

  3. Right so, you could try this: Find a large cardboard box, cut a side off it and, when you’re filming, you will hold your video camera with one hand and the cardboard with the other. Lean one edge of the cardboard behind your ear, hold it slanted at an angle outwards, so that it is not within the camera’s field of view and…Action !
    It will partially reflect your voice and direct it to the in-built mic the video camera is provided with. Good luck !

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