The government and the Wonders of the Mekong project held a January 13 ceremony to release more than 5,000 fish from endangered species back into the Mekong and Tonle Sap rivers to allow them to reproduce and increase the rare fish populations.

Secretary of state at the Ministry of Environment Neth Pheaktra and Has Sareth, secretary of state at the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, co-presided over the ceremony at the Chaktomuk River in Phnom Penh, which is connected to both of the larger rivers.

The fish released included two Mekong giant catfish and 5,002 Mekong giant barbs and striped catfish.

They called on people to join the ministries in protecting and conserving natural resources and these endangered species of fish.

“If brothers and sisters catch rare fish, please do not kill them, do not eat them and do not sell them, but release them back into the water so that they can continue to live and reproduce,” Pheaktra said.

One of the Mekong giant catfish that was released weighs 46kg and is 157cm in length. It was caught by a fisherman in Prek Tameak commune's Svay At Leu village of Kandal province’s Khsach Kandal district. The fish was fitted with a tracker before it was released back into the river.

The Mekong giant catfish was put on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species as “critically endangered” and is protected by the Convention of International Trade of Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).