(Phnom Penh) They had gone to tease fish in the Mekong, but did not expect to catch a catch four meters long and 180 kilos: fishermen in Cambodia caught a giant ray, one of the largest freshwater fish of the world.
The freshwater stingray, threatened by overfishing, pollution and habitat loss, is a protected species.
The fish was released after being measured and weighed by scientists from the “Wonders of the Mekong” project, who were present at the scene.
The stingray was caught accidentally last week in Stung Treng province when it swallowed a smaller fish that had taken the bait of fishermen.
The Mekong, one of the longest rivers in Asia (4350 kilometers long), is home to the most important aquatic biodiversity in the world after the Amazon, with more than 1000 species of fish.
Gigantic specimens such as the giant catfish or the giant barbel which can reach three meters and weigh up to 300 kilos also inhabit its waters.
The river, which reaches 80 meters deep in places, could harbor even larger varieties, according to scientists.
It is full of “invisible and hidden ecosystems,” said Zeb Hogan, an American biologist from the University of Nevada and director of the US-funded “Wonders of Mekong” project, in a statement.
Vital to the survival of millions of people in Southeast Asia, the Mekong and its wildlife are threatened by the dozens of dams built by Beijing in China, Laos and Cambodia on the river and its tributaries.
Pollution is another source of concern.
Plastic waste has been spotted even in the deepest areas of the river as well as “ghost nets” lost or abandoned by fishermen in which fish can become trapped.