13
Feb
11

Incredible India – Chinese fishing nets in Cochin

The Chinese fishing nets are fixed land installations for a unique and unusual form of fishing. Operated from the shore, these nets are set up on bamboo and teak poles and held horizontally by huge mechanisms, which lower them into the sea. They are mostly found in the Indian state of Kerala, more specific in Cochin. Huge mechanical contrivances hold out horizontal nets of 20 m or more across. Each structure is at least 10 m high and comprises a cantilever with an outstretched net suspended over the sea and large stones suspended from ropes as counterweights at the other end. Each installation is operated by a team of up to six fishermen.

The system is sufficiently balanced that the weight of a man walking along the main beam is sufficient to cause the net to descend into the sea. The net is left for a short time, possibly just a few minutes, before it is raised by pulling on ropes. The catch is usually modest: a few fish and crustaceans that may be sold to passersby within minutes. The system of counterweights is most ingenious. Rocks, each 30 cm or so in diameter are suspended from ropes of different lengths. As the net is raised, some of the rocks one-by-one come to rest on a platform thereby keeping everything in balance.

Each installation has a limited operating depth. Consequently, an individual net cannot be continually operated in tidal waters. Different installations will be operated depending on the state of the tide. The nets may have been introduced by the Chinese explorer Zheng He. The Chinese fishing nets have become a very popular tourist attraction, their size and elegant construction is very photogenic and the slow rhythm of their operation is quite hypnotic.

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