World’s heaviest freshwater fish, a 661-pound stingray, caught in Cambodia

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An enormous 661-pound stingray was caught in a distant fishing village on the shores of the Mekong River in Cambodia, making it the heaviest freshwater fish ever documented, researchers mentioned Monday.

The 13-foot fish dethrones the previous record-holder, a 646-pound catfish present in northern Thailand in 2005. It additionally renews hope that enormous freshwater fish — which as a bunch of animals are critically threatened — can thrive as soon as once more.

A fisherman caught the large stingray on the night of June 13, mentioned Chea Selia, a member of a joint American-Cambodian analysis staff often called the Wonders of the Mekong that’s documenting freshwater fish. The fisherman then contacted her staff the next morning, Chea mentioned. The stingray was weighed, then launched.

Before the catch, locals had informed the researchers that they had been seeing giant “black shadows underneath the water at night,” Chea mentioned in a telephone interview. “They thought they were spirits. I think they were the stingrays,” she mentioned.

Nearly a 3rd of all freshwater fish species are threatened with extinction, based on the World Wildlife Fund; since 1970, populations of freshwater fish weighing 66 kilos or extra have declined by 94 p.c. In 2020 alone, 16 species had been declared extinct, together with the Chinese paddlefish.

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“I was concerned we would see [more extinctions] before we would see records broken,” mentioned Zeb Hogan, a 48-year-old biologist who has spent his two-decade profession researching giant freshwater fish. “The fact that this record-breaking fish was found is mainly significant because it shows that there is still hope for these fish,” he mentioned.

Hogan had simply completed writing a manuscript for his book entitled “In Search of the World’s Largest Fish.” In his draft, Hogan describes how in 2005, locals in Thailand had discovered the then-largest ever freshwater fish. But final week, Hogan needed to replace it, after listening to from the Wonders of Mekong staff in Cambodia, which he directs with assist from the U.S. authorities. (The Wonders of Mekong is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development).

The 661-pound stingray can be the fourth giant freshwater fish to be present in that space of the Mekong River since April 22, when Hogan’s staff began asking native fishers to report any huge fish they see. That suggests the world — close to the fishing village of Koh Preah, 140 miles northeast of Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh — might be a breeding floor for freshwater stingrays that must be conserved. “I think we can call it a stingray hot spot,” Hogan mentioned.

Cambodian fisheries officers are actually planning a global workshop that may search to contain specialists from Vietnam, Laos and Thailand to debate the right way to higher defend the surviving freshwater fish within the space, Hogan mentioned.

The Mekong, which at an estimated 2,700 miles is longer than the Mississippi, snakes down mainland Southeast Asia throughout the 4 international locations, which means conservation efforts have to be coordinated. Cambodian officers couldn’t be instantly reached for remark.

Hogan spoke by telephone from a trip in Hawaii along with his household. When requested if his household was okay with him working throughout his vacation, Hogan shrugged it off.

“I’ve spent the last 20 years of my life focused on this topic,” mentioned Hogan, who has hosted a present known as “Monster Fish with Zeb Hogan” on Nat Geo Wild. “So I wouldn’t miss this for the world. And yeah, my family’s on board, too,” he mentioned.

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Andrew Jeong

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