Two hundred juvenile specimens of the critically endangered Mekong giant catfish were released by the Preah Sihanouk Provincial Fisheries Administration into freshwater reservoirs on Sunday evening in an effort to help preserve the species – which can grow up to 350 kilograms.
The rare behemoths are believed to be the largest freshwater fish species in the world – a 220-kilogram specimen was caught near Phnom Penh in 2012 – but are threatened by, among other things, the development of dams on the Mekong mainstream that could block their migration.
“The Mekong giant catfish is considered to be a rare and endangered species. The release of those young fish into the natural lake is to preserve the fish,” said Nen Chamroeun, chief of the provincial Fisheries Administration.
According to Chamroeun, some 100 Mekong catfish were freed at the Kbal Chhay reservoir, and another 100 were freed into O’Chamna Lake, Prey Nop Lake and Prek Cheung Ko Lake. He said the juvenile fish weighed between 0.5 and 0.7 kilograms per fish, but noted that they would get much larger.
“Generally, the Mekong giant fish can live as long as human beings, and its weight can be up to 350 kilograms when it reaches its full growth,” he confirmed.
Chamroeun appealed to the people – especially to local fishermen – to jointly preserve the fish by stopping the use of illegal fishing techniques like electric fishing devices and tube nets.