THE STORY OF THE MEKONG GIANT CATFISH

The Mekong Giant Catfish The Mekong Giant Catfish The Mekong Giant Catfish The Mekong Giant Catfish The Mekong Giant Catfish The Mekong Giant Catfish The Mekong Giant Catfish The Mekong Giant Catfish The Mekong Giant Catfish
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The Mekong Giant Catfish

The Mekong Giant Catfish

The Mekong Giant Catfish

Only one of these famous, Giant Catfish (“pla buak” in Thai) was caught in 2009; it was a huge female weighing 230 kg.

“This critically endangered fish is only found in the Mekong and its tributaries” says world famous angler Jean-Francois Helias, a passionate supporter of conservation. “The problem is that the whole ecology of the Mekong is being changed by China’s dam-building program, and the blasting of rocks to aid shipping. There has been over-fishing for many years of course, with 20 to 30 being caught per day. But now their breeding grounds are being spoilt.”

The fish that Thai and Laos anglers consider a “spirit fish,” bringing good luck to those who catch it, is also being poisoned by pesticides in the water such as DDT; also mercury, thought to come from gold mining in Laos. However, since the 1980’s, the Thai Fisheries Department has run a breeding program, and many are now stocked in reservoirs and private lakes.

Growing to 3 meters in length and 350 kg in weight, the Giant Catfish has long been a great delicacy. Some years ago, Bangkok restaurants had to order the catfish one year in advance, and a small bowl of tom yam pla buak was priced at a minimum of 150 baht.

Pollution, rock blasting, and a bacterial disease in the Mekong are killing off another species downstream—the 190-km stretch of the Mekong which is home to the graceful, playful, freshwater dolphin. Also classed as critically endangered, these creatures are currently estimated to number only 66 to 76.

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