Mekong Giant Catfish
Location: Mekong Basin of southeast Asia
The giant catfish is the world’s largest freshwater fish, having been recorded at up to 10.5 feet in length and 660 lb. It is a migratory species. From October to December each year, the species moves out of the lower Mekong, and is believed to migrate upstream into northeastern Cambodia and possibly Lao PDR, or Thailand to spawn.
The giant catfish has been subject to over-fishing for many years. Catches at the beginning of the 20th century were in the thousands each year but declines have been so severe that less than ten are now caught per year. Habitat loss and degradation as a result of damming and the clearance of flooded forest near the Tonle Sap Lake have disrupted the giant catfish’s migration, spawning, eating and breeding habits.
In Cambodia and Thailand it is illegal to catch the giant catfish but this legislation is not enforced. In Laos it is protected, but again, this has no practical effect. Artificially spawned individuals have been released into the River Mekong since 1985, and captive breeding has been taking place since 2001. The Mekong Fish Conservation Project works in cooperation with the Cambodian Department of Fisheries to conduct research and educate the public. This project has released 20 catfish into the river system since 2000.
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