Jinshan has a unique fishing tradition that is almost dying with time. The special technique was filed to the Department of Cultural Affairs of the New Taipei City Government for registration as a cultural asset. Last year, the department rejected the application saying the traditional was already waning, but passed the application on August 31 this year and the fishing technique can be preserved in Taiwan.

China Times reports, sulfuric fire fishing was one of the eight must-see attractions in Jinshan in the past. The fishermen would light up the pitch-black night with sulfuric fire in the summertime and scaled sardines drawn by the strong light would ripple the surface of the water. The magnificent scene is now an important national treasure in the hundreds of years of the fishing industry.

The director of the Fisheries Agency, Wang Zhao-hua, says that there were 300 fishing vessels that used sulfuric fire fishing in the past, but only four remain now. This July, the Jinshan Fishermen’s Association invited officials to watch the magnificent sight and to reexamine the application.

Liberty Times reports, members of the reviewing committee explain that sulfuric fire fishing was developed during the period of Japanese Rule and is currently preserved only in the Jinshan sulfur harbor. The short harvest season and unstable harvest amount highlights the fighting spirits of Taiwanese fishermen.

The rigorous process of sulfuric fire fishing includes searching the location of the fishes, igniting the fire, casting and drawing the nets and other procedures. The sulfur stone will dissolve in the water and the gas produced will then flash with fire and attract the fishes.

The director of the Department of Cultural Affairs, Lin Kuan-yu, points out the limited working area of this traditional technique generates less impact on the environment and meets the ideal of sustainable development in the fishing industry.

The Department of Cultural Affairs also says it plans to apply for the publishing of an oral history book and image recordings of sulfuric fire fishing next year so that more people can learn about the stunning traditional fishing technique.

Professor of religious studies at Fu Jen Catholic University, Zheng Zhi-ming, points out that about twenty to thirty years ago, it was common to use sulfuric fire to catch fish in the northeast region of Taiwan. In response to the changing times, fishing equipment was improved and traditional fishing methods declined. Along with the exodus of the youth population in fishing villages, the importance of preserving sulfuric fire fishing is even more prominent.

Jinshan Fishermen’s Association Chairman Jian Yin-zhu says, “Sulfuric fire fishing is gradually declining and local cultural workers are currently active in organizing tours and experiencing activities. The fishermen’s association and related units have developed canned goods to promote the value of scaled sardines and preserve the tradition."

Videos of sulfuric fire fishing

Translated by June and Olivia Yang
Edited by Olivia Yang