The world’s largest freshwater fish, a 300-kg giant stingray, was found near a remote island in the Mekong River in Cambodia’s Stung Treng province, a joint initiative announced.
The announcement was made by Wonders of the Mekong, the initiative between the University of Nevada Reno’s Global Water Center and the Inland Fisheries Research and Development Institute of Cambodia (IFReDI), with funding from US Agency for International Development (USAID).
The record-breaking stingray, which measured over 13 feet from snout to tail, was hooked by a fisherman south of the town of Stung Treng on June 13, in the middle stretches of the Mekong River, Xinhua news agency reported citing the project as saying.
The previous record-holder for the world’s largest freshwater fish was a 293-kg Mekong giant catfish caught in Thailand in 2005, it added.
According to the initiative, recognizing the importance of his catch, the Cambodian fisherman quickly contacted a team from the Wonders of the Mekong research project to help release the ray, an endangered species, back into the river.
For Zeb Hogan, a fish biologist at the University of Nevada, Reno, the stingray find is evidence that the natural world can still yield new and extraordinary discoveries, and that many of the largest aquatic creatures remain woefully understudied.
“In 20 years of researching giant fish in rivers and lakes on six continents, this is the largest freshwater fish that we’ve encountered or that’s been documented anywhere worldwide.
“This is an absolutely astonishing discovery, and justifies efforts to better understand the mysteries surrounding this species and the incredible stretch of river where it lives,” he added.
For the first time ever in Cambodia, the huge ray was fitted with an acoustic tag, the technology that will enable biologists to learn more about the secretive creature’s elusive behaviour.
In collaboration with the Cambodian Fisheries Administration, the Wonders of the Mekong project established a network of fishers who agreed to report catches of giant and endangered fish, including stingrays.
Last month, fishermen in the same area reported to the team that they had caught a 400-pound giant female stingray, which the research team then helped release safely into the depths of the river.
“The discovery of this world record stingray indicates the special opportunity we have in Cambodia to protect this species and its core habitat,” said Poum Sotha, director general of the Cambodian Fisheries Administration.