A 180kg female giant freshwater stingray was accidentally caught by Mekong River fishermen in Koh Preah community in Koh Preah village and commune of Stung Treng province’s Siem Bok district.
Sin Piseth, a river guard based in Koh Preah village, told The Post on May 9 that the Stingray was caught by a fisherman named Korn Sopheap after it swallowed one of his baited hooks on the end of a line he had cast into the water with his fishing rod.
“After he saw that he caught the giant stingray, he called out to villagers to help him as the stingray dove further into the water in the middle of the river but remained hooked on his line,” he said.
“Then villagers came and pulled the stingray to the side of the river and called the river guard who contacted the Wonders of the Mekong project to record the details about it before releasing it back to the river,” he said.
Piseth said the Wonders of the Mekong team had measured the stingray at 1.85m wide with a 2m-long tail. From its nose to the end of its tail, the stingray was nearly 4m in length.
According to Wonders of the Mekong, fishermen on the river use the same rods, reels, lines and hooks that others do globally in order to catch fish, and stingrays can sometimes accidentally get caught on the hooks while trying to eat the bait or a fish that had already taken the fisherman’s bait and also gotten hooked.
The fisherman that caught the stingray regretted that it had happened, saying he wanted to help conserve the giant animals, which is endangered throughout the Mekong River.
“He contacted the Wonders of the Mekong team right away and asked us to tag, measure and release her back into the wild,” said their press release.
Pheng Boeun, head of the Koh Preah fishing community, said this is not the first time that a giant stingray had been caught by a local fisherman.
“In the Mekong River in Siem Bok district, there are many such stingrays, and many of them that weigh between 30 and 40kg have been caught in the past and were then released,” he said.
He said officials from the Wonders of the Mekong had provided fishermen with some incentives such as money and some material goods in exchange for reporting the catch to them immediately. The project team travels straight to the reported location and measures the stingray and then tags them before releasing them back into the river.
He said there are normally two kinds of stingrays in that area of the river: the buffalo stingray, which is black, and the cow stingray, which is red.
World Wide Fund for Nature Cambodia (WWF-Cambodia) said the giant stingray is the largest and heaviest species of freshwater fish in the world.
Despite their size, they were not discovered and catalogued by scientists until 1990. They are now confirmed to be living in some river systems in Southeast Asia and northern Australia.