Fisherman’s Wharf, Dalian: “Do you think he’ll catch anything?”

Fisherman's Wharf Dalian

It’s October, 2014. My husband and I spend a week in Dalian. On a cloudy day, we visit Fisherman’s Wharf (大连渔人码头 dàlián yúrén mǎtóu), the only fisherman’s harbour in downtown Dalian.

I stand on the dock looking at fishing boats. A guy in his 60s is watching someone fish with a fishing line.

Fisherman's Wharf Dalian

He says: “Do you think he’ll catch anything?”
And then, without waiting for an answer: “I don’t think so. The water is too polluted. When I came here 30 years ago, the water was very clean. People caught really big fish.”

Fisherman's Wharf Dalian

Suddenly, the guy we talk about catches a fish.

The guy in his 60s says: “Look at that big fish he caught!” He’s laughing like crazy at his own joke. In reality, the fish is very small.

Have you ever visited a fisherman’s harbour? How did you like it?

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Hi, I'm Ruth, welcome to China Elevator Stories! I have been living in Kunming and Shenzhen in the past and am now staying in Northeast China with my Chinese husband and our baby and toddler son. Join us on our journey bridging worlds!


  1. robert

    Most fishing harbors are sad places, unless they’re the touristy sort with old fashioned boats painted in bright colors. And fishing in the harbor is never ever a good idea! The guy must be really desperate / foolish / doing it for sports only. Every port’s water is dirty, even if it doesn’t look like it. There’s diesel, engine oil, etc. And even private yachts don’t recycle their the waste. If someone takes a dump it goes right into the water. That’s why you want to avoid falling into any harbor (even the ones with nice clean white super yachts), and, I guess, eating any fish that’ve been caught from it.

    But hey, we’re in China. If you’re concerned about food safety this is the wrong country. Eating here is like driving: Seatbelts are optional 🙂 Both with food and driving I had some scary experiences, but so far I’m still okay – also, Augen zu und durch 😉

    Also, isn’t Dalian the place where they had the huge oil spill a few years ago? I remember that was somewhere up in the north…

    • Yeah, I’m sure the water at harbours is quite polluted. The oil spill was near Dalian. I’m not sure how polluted the waters still are. My husband said that they sent tons of people to clean up the waters after the oil spill, but I’ve read that it might take until 2020 until the waters are kind of clean again.

  2. ah. i like how the story ended, with the fisherman catching a fish and the onlooker laughing at himself.

    great photos and dialogue here; i appreciate these glimpses of china through your blog. =)

  3. We have a fishing dock in town. It’s always fun to watch people fish and see if they catch anything. If it’s the right time of year, they catch salmon from the dock. They also throw crab traps over the side.

  4. We don’t have any harbour in Suzhou but I’ve seen people fishing in the lakes, even though there are “fishing forbidden” signs everywhere.

  5. Sandra

    In Shanghai people even fish in the little canals running through the city. In early spring they get inside of the water and dig up the mudd, as there are those little snails inside, which they sell on the local markets.
    On the one hand I think it’s really nice how the inhabitants of such a big city stick to their traditions and customs, on the other hand I also think it’s a bit foolish, as the water is very, very polluted and I’m sure it doesn’t do you any good eating things like that. However, I think that most people are not aware what environmental pollution is doing/can do to their health. They are aware that there is pollution, but not many people are trying to protect themselves/change anything. At least that is the impression I got from conversations I had with people/things I wateched. What do you think?

    • I think there’s a widespread belief that a single person can’t do much to resolve these issues. Some probably don’t think much about the harm eating polluted food might do to their health, others worry about these things, but don’t have enough money to buy cleaner food (or don’t want to put their priorities on spending money on cleaner food). There’s also another factor: Lack of trust that food labelled “green” or “organic” really is green or organic. One exception people make when it comes to spending money on clean food is their kids. They spend a lot of money to make sure their babies get imported milk formula.

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