Mekong River Commission fisheries officer Em Samy tags for release a 2.53-meter-long, 200-kg giant catfish, which was caught October 28 in a barrage structure net on the Tonle Sap river. The MRC paid $200 to save the fish from being slaughtered and sold. Samy said the intention of the tagging program is to find out more about the migratory habits of the catfish and other endangered, giant Mekong fish so effective conservation measures can be applied.
Further, two giant catfish were found dead in nets on October 30, in Kbal Koh commune (Kandal) and Siem Reap; another caught in Puok district survived and was released.
The Mekong catfish is one of the world's largest and fastest-growing freshwater fish, reported to grow 150-200 kg in three to five years. Mature females can lay between 500,000 and 2 million eggs; a 178 kg female is known to have produced 800,000 eggs weighing a total 13.5 kg.
In recent years, giant catfish have been released into reservoirs in Thailand and Cambodia and reports of catches with bodyweights exceeding 100 kg indicate a potential for commercial aquaculture.
The fish lives in the Mekong mainstream where the water depth is 10 meters or more. It prefers rocky or gravel river beds, although sometimes lives in underwater caves.
The wild population is declining rapidly and the species is endangered. The MRC says that ultimately the management and protection of the species must involve a coordinated conservation effort among all countries of the Mekong basin. (Richard Woodd)