Scientists have asserted that the tracking of giant Mekong stingray “Boramey”, the largest freshwater fish ever caught, has produced valuable data that will contribute to the protection of the species.

A May 30 press release by the Wonders of the Mekong research project said the one-year tracking of Boramey’s movements has uncovered clues that it hopes will save the endangered giant fish, and the Mekong River where it dwells.

The press release explained that for the past 12 months, in collaboration with the Fisheries Administration, scientists have been tracking the world record-breaking ray, after it was caught and released in June last year. An acoustic tag was fitted to the huge fish before it was released in Stung Treng province.

The discovery of the 300kg monster – whose name translates as full moon, in Khmer – led to the USAID-funded Wonders of the Mekong project to launch a new initiative to study and protect one of the largest, most mysterious creatures on the planet.

The project’s press release noted that the data gathered revealed that despite its enormous size, the female giant has a remarkably small home range, centered in a bio-rich but threatened stretch of the Mekong River in northern Cambodia. Scientists know very little about the giant freshwater stingray, a species whose population has dramatically declined across its Southeast Asian region.

“This month, we will publish our valuable findings and share them,” it said.

“The Mekong River, which runs through six Asian countries, is a global biodiversity hotspot and home to almost 1,000 different species of fish, including the world’s largest freshwater stingray,” said Kerry Pelzman, mission director for USAID Cambodia.

“USAID is proud to join efforts to safeguard the Wonders of the Mekong and to protect endangered species to help sustain Cambodia’s rich fisheries and the livelihoods of millions of Cambodians,” she added.

Zeb Hogan, a biology professor at the University of Nevada, Reno, who leads the Wonders of the Mekong research project that initiated the study, said the new information about the stingray and other critically endangered fish is crucial to the protection of Cambodia’s most iconic animals and the preservation of a river that provides food and livelihoods for millions of people.

“The giant stingray is now at the centre of a larger debate about the fate of the Mekong, and how to balance river basin development with environmental stewardship so that the bountiful Mekong can continue to provide for people in the region for generations to come,” he added.

The press release noted that the International Union for Conservation of Nature has assessed the giant stingray as endangered, due to population declines as high as 79 per cent over the last century.