5 things you should know about the Chinese fishing nets in Kochi, Kerala (India)

Chinese Fishing Nets

We had a lot of expectations for the Chinese fishing nets and Fort Cochin as a foodie destination and were totally disappointed.

The place is a very touristic spot where we rapidly felt like walking wallets.

And the fish we were so eager to eat is swimming in a filthy water between what looks like an open air litter and a refinery.

Too much for the food and nature lovers we are.

1. Chinese fishing nets : Ingenious shore operated lift nets system probably brought by Chinese explorers centuries ago

The visit to these shore operated lift nets was very promising, though. counterweights on Chinese fishing nets, Kochi

Reading about them on Wikipedia, we thought it would be one of the highlights of our trip to Kerala (India).

It’s an ingenious fishing technique that allows one single fisherman to operate a 20-metres-wide fishing net by himself. The different net structures are at least 10 metres high and each one gets its net to a different level of deep to allow fishing different kinds of fishes.

The system is a balance. On one side a wide open fishing net and on the other, big stones are hanging as counterweights. In order for the Chinese fishing net to sink into the water, the fisherman only needs to walk through the structure. His weight is enough to get the net submerged

In order for the Chinese fishing net to sink into the water, the fisherman only needs to walk through the structure. His weight is enough to get the net submerged

 

2. You can buy fresh fish and have someone cook it for you

 

Imagine a place where you can witness how fishes get caught, then choose one and have it cooked by one of the restaurants nearby.

Sounds amazing, right?

The fishermen get fishes in their nets and directly send them to the vendors on the sea walk. We saw fishes that looked like baby soles still moving on the fish stand.

But that’s where the magic ended.

All the acceptable-sized fishes were lacking both ice and freshness.

We understood why when we came closer to the Chinese fishing nets and saw what they were actually catching there.

 

3. Travel guides don’t tell you it’s a gigantic litter with a refinery on the background

Litter on the Chinese fishing nets area, Kochi

Water is full of litter.

The beach is full of litter. Crows are flying around trying to get whatever “food” they can.

On the other side, a huge refinery. Yes. That’s why all the pictures look the same. You only have one angle.

The only thing these nets catch these days are tiny fishes and litter. No wonder.

You can imagine our deception. All that delicious fresh fish we were going to eat: forgotten.

We’ve been eating a lot of weird things. Not always on remarkably hygienic conditions. But this was way too much for us.

We ended up pretexting we were vegetarian to the insistent fish vendors.

 

4. A highly touristic spot where you’re confronted with all kinds of tourist traps

If you’re following us on Instagram, you know we’ve spent the first two weeks of our trip to India in Pune living and working with locals.

The experience in Fort Cochin right after was a bit of a disappointment in our seek of authenticity. We have to admit we don’t like touristic places. We feel that encounters with local people are much more interesting in less crowded places.

Rickshaw drivers in the Fort Cochin area refuse to use their counter and try to charge you ridiculous amounts of money for a ride (5 to 10 times more than in other cities).

Like in many touristic places in Asia, rickshaw drivers get gas refill tickets from souvenir stores when bringing in people. Even if you don’t buy anything. It’s a classic in Bangkok (Thailand).

If you’re lucky to be riding with an honest driver, he’ll be clear about it and won’t charge you anything else. Just so you have an idea, every gas ticket of these was worth one week of gas supply for our tuk-tuk driver a few years ago in Bangkok. In a few days, we were able to help him get 2 months of free gas.

In Fort Cochin, we didn’t find out how much gas these tickets were worth but our driver clearly preferred to bring us to a couple of shops than charging for driving us all day.

It can be fun when you know what you’re into. But when you don’t and your rickshaw keeps bringing you to all kind of tourists stores instead of getting you to where you wanted to go in the first place; it’s a real nightmare. Now you know, if it happens to you, just refuse to get in the store.

Let’s get back to the Chinese fishing nets.

Right before getting to the fish stands, we were already being offered all kinds of things to buy. From the classic bags and accessories to plastic spaghetti makers… Don’t look for local crafts there, you won’t find any.

I don’t know if you have ever been in a souk in Marrocco. If you have, you’ll remember the feeling of not being able to look at any of the offered products without being harassed by the vendor. The area surrounding the Chinese fishing nets seemed to us to be like a light version of it.

5. Even the fishermen are doing the show for tourists

When we came closer to the Chinese fishing nets, as I was taking pictures,  a fisherman nicely offered us to come closer and see how they lifted the net up. Fishermen operating a Chinese fishing net in Kochi, Kerala, India

He explained they submerge the net for 5 minutes, raise it and repeat.

As we were witnessing how bad the catch was, he explained that they weren’t catching much these days and this wasn’t enough to feed the families of the 5 fishermen who were there at the time.

We gave the fisherman 40 rupees but he told us it wasn’t enough for all of them. So we gave him 10 more.

When we shared experiences with other travellers we realised whatever you give them, they’ll tell you it’s not enough.

Some had given 200 rupees and got the exact same reaction.

Cleary, these fishermen are not fishing much anymore and are making a living from the show “offered” to the tourists.

Looks like pollution ended up with this fishing zone. And fishermen need to keep faking it so the tourists keep coming. It’s very sad for everyone involved.

And it feels like a tourist trap.

 

In conclusion, our advice for you is : if you’re a food and nature lover, don’t bother. Prefer the close-by Munnar heights where you can find spice farms and tea plantations. And if you want to see the Chines fishing nets anyways, prefer sunset time. You’ll get nicer pictures and won’t be as distracted by the litter everywhere.

The fishermen told us the area was filthy because we visited it right after the monsoon.Have you seen the Chinese fishing nets in Kochi at another time (we were there in September)? Was it clean?

Please share your experience in the comment section so we can enrich this post.

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6 Comments

  1. It’s hard to locate well informed individuals on this topic, but you seem like you realize what you’re talking about!
    Thanks

  2. My experience were totally different. It was an organised group trip. We sailed across seeing men collection shellfish. Fishing nets were opposite a Homestay resort which had beautiful forna & flora . Here we had delicious S. Indian cuisine (I should know as I was brought up on it) We dined facing the sea & fishing nets. If we had been even luckier we would have seen cruise ships passing too. There were no fishermen. The nets are actually lowered at night & lights are switched on above to attract fish etc into net which is lifted up in the morning. I walked to the net with our private guide clicking some excellent photos of me , for me. (There is another section of this land where you can see & handle ocean crabs. Crafts people at work…potter, coconut leaf craft made eg into baskets. rope making. mini cigar rolling..free sample to try it…emmm good, I had to buy some home), handmade jewellery, coconut tree climibing for ‘toddy’…alcoholic drink. We were given frsh coconut drink & cracked open it to eat the curnels. Memorable trip.

    • It’s nice to know there are still authentic places where one can witness the traditionnal use of the Chinese fishing nets! Where was it? I’m sure it would help our visitors to know where to head off. (Note: we erased the link to your travel agency, we’re willing to provide unbiased points of view in these pages. No advertising, please.)

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