Underwater giant: Fishermen accidentally snag an endangered giant stingray


Imagine the shock on the faces of Cambodian fishermen when they pulled a 4-meter-long (13-foot-long) giant freshwater stingray weighing 180 kilograms (396 pounds) out of the water, all by mistake because they didn’t want to snag the endangered animal on the Mekong, scientists said Wednesday.

The female leviathan, one of Southeast Asia’s largest and rarest fish species, was accidentally caught last week in Stung Treng province when she swallowed a smaller fish that took a baited hook.

province, Cambodia, on May 5, 2022. (Wonders of the Mekong via AFP)” onerror=”this.style.display=’none’;” style=”max-width: 400px; height: 385px;;width: 100%;height: auto;object-fit: cover;”/>

A female giant freshwater stingray was caught and released into the Mekong in Stung Treng province, Cambodia, on May 5, 2022. (Wonders of the Mekong via AFP)

An international team of experts from the US-funded Wonders of the Mekong project worked with fishermen to unhook the ray before weighing, measuring and returning it unharmed to the river.

The giant Mekong is a crucial habitat for a huge range of species large and small, but project leader Zeb Hogan, a University of Nevada fish biologist, said the river’s underwater ecosystem was misunderstood.

“These are unseen, underappreciated and out of sight worlds,” he said in a statement released by his university.

More than 1,000 species of fish call the Mekong home and the stingray isn’t the only giant lurking in the muddy waters – the giant catfish and giant barb also reach up to 3 meters (9.84ft). ) long and 270 kilograms (595 lb) in weight.

The study group said in the statement that the remote location where the stingray was captured has pools up to 80 meters deep and could harbor even larger specimens.

A female giant freshwater stingray was caught and released into the Mekong in Stung Treng province, Cambodia, on May 5, 2022. (Wonders of the Mekong via AFP)

A female giant freshwater stingray was caught and released into the Mekong in Stung Treng province, Cambodia, on May 5, 2022. (Wonders of the Mekong via AFP)

But they also warned that underwater video footage showed plastic litter even in the deepest parts of the Mekong, as well as “ghost nets” – abandoned by fishermen but still able to trap fish.

Environmentalists have long worried that the construction of dams along the Mekong will destroy fish stocks.

The famous waterway begins in China and winds south through parts of Thailand, Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia and Vietnam, supplying 60 million people through its basin and tributaries.

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