A great catch

PHNOM PENH (AFP) - Cambodian fishermen on the Mekong River got a shock when they inadvertently hooked an endangered giant freshwater stingray 4m long and weighing 180kg, said scientists yesterday.

The female leviathan, one of South-east Asia's largest and rarest species of fish, was caught by accident last week in north-eastern Stung Treng province when it swallowed a smaller fish that had taken a baited hook.

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

The giant Mekong is a crucial habitat for a vast array of species.

More than 1,000 fish species call the Mekong home and the stingray is not the only giant lurking in the muddy waters - the giant catfish and giant barb also reach up to 3m long and 270kg in weight.

The study group said in the statement that the remote location where the ray was caught has pools up to 80m deep and could harbour even bigger specimens.

But they also warned that underwater video footage showed plastic waste even in the deepest stretches of the Mekong, along with "ghost nets" which have been abandoned by fishers but are still able to snare fish.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE


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