Facing Danger for a Delicacy

In late December, a freezing cold front gripped the beaches of Guanglu Island, a rural part of the northeastern city of Dalian.

Ning Hai, a 44-year-old sea-cucumber harvester who is locally known as a “haimengzi,” or sea diver, tossed what was left of his burning cigarette into the air, and slipped backward into the seawater from a small wooden boat.

Half an hour later, Ning emerged with a basket at his chest half filled with sea cucumbers. He splashed the water with his hand to signal to Cheng Li, the boat’s owner and captain. Cheng reached out to grab Ning’s oxygen tank, then the basket of sea cucumbers.

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