Photo credit: Wanna Thawinwan (Thailand)
Review: Abdel Rahman El Gamal
General: The Mekong giant catfish, Pangasianodon gigas is the world’s largest freshwater fish which is native to the Mekong River basin in Southeast Asia. It is also called giant Mekong catfish and also “Pla Beuk” in the Thai language. There are records about specimens of the species with lengths of up to 3 m and a weight of about 300 kg. In regard to their life-span, the species is among the long lived ones and can live more than 60 years. The species which belongs to the family Pangasiidae is the most threatened species in the Mekong River and has been considered critically endangered as listed in the IUCN Red List.
Threats and conservation: The decline of the populations of the Mekong giant catfish is an example that of the drastic decline of fish population where there stocks dropped by about 80-90% over the past century. Overfishing, destruction of spawning and breeding grounds and damming contributed to the series declines of the species.
Because of the importance of this species, national and international efforts have been paid to save the species. These efforts included the banning of the fishery and trade of the species, research and raising awareness, and release of captive-bred adult specimens. Also, there is a captive breeding program which is carried out under the responsibility of the Thai Department of Fisheries. The photos are taken during a recent work on the artificial reproduction of the Mekong giant catfish.
References: National Geography, Wikipedia, RelivEarth, WWF Global, Fish Thailand