Giant stingray on the hook of the Mekong

CambodiaA group of fishermen in Stung Treng province were shocked when a giant freshwater ray measuring 4 meters in length and weighing 180 kilograms was hooked.

Scientists said today a group of fishermen caught a female stingray, one of Southeast Asia’s largest and rarest fish, in Cambodia’s northeastern Stung Treng province last week. The animal that devoured the small fish was hung on the hook as bait and caught by a group of fishermen.

An international team of experts from the US-funded Wonders of the Mekong project worked with fishermen to remove the hook from the stingray before it was weighed, measured and returned to the river.

Giant ray caught by Cambodian fishermen on May 5 in the Mekong River, which flows through Stung Treng province.  Photo: AFP.

Giant ray caught by Cambodian fishermen on May 5 in the Mekong River, which flows through Stung Treng province. Picture: AFP.

The Mekong is an important habitat for a variety of species, large and small, but project leader Zeb Hogan, a fish biologist from the University of Nevada, USA, says researchers still don’t fully understand the ecology of the ecosystem in the waters of this river. “It’s the unexplored and underappreciated world,” he said.

The river is home to more than 1,000 species of fish, and the air stingray isn’t the only giant creature lurking in these alluvial waters. The Mekong giant catfish and carp can grow up to three meters long and weigh 270 kilograms.

The team say the location where the stingray was hooked has areas as deep as 80 meters and possibly even larger creatures. However, they also warn that underwater videos show plastic debris and fishing nets left behind by fishermen in the deepest reaches of the Mekong, threatening fish species.

The Mekong rises in China and flows south through Thailand, Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia and Vietnam, providing livelihood for around 60 million people.

Huyen Le (Corresponding AFP)