Ministry of Environment spokesman Neth Pheaktra thanked authorities in Kandal province’s Khsach Kandal district for releasing a Mekong giant catfish back into the wild on December 27.
The fish measured 46kg and 157cm and was caught by a fisherman in Prek Tameak commune’s Svay At Leu village, according to Pheaktra.
The Mekong giant catfish (Pangasianodon gigas) is classed as a critically endangered species on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. It was also added to the Convention of International Trade of Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), so people are banned from catching, buying and selling the fish.
“I commend the authorities for releasing this fish back into the Mekong River in Prek Tameak,” he said, noting that people are banned from catching, buying and selling the Mekong giant catfish during the Sangkum Reastr Niyum era by a 1956 law, which was updated by sub-decree No 123 in August 2009.
Pheaktra said three species are included in the ban: Giant freshwater stingray, Mekong giant catfish and Mekong giant barb.
“This species has no scales. They live in the Tonle Sap River and the upper Mekong area, especially in pools in the Mekong River in Kratie and Stung Treng provinces. The fish migrates a long way during the breeding season,” he added.
Khsach Kandal district governor Cheng Dina said the individual fish was released after becoming entangled in fishing gear.
“The district fisheries administration collaborated with the Institute for Freshwater Fisheries Research to tag the fish so we can follow its migratory path,” he said in a social media post.
The ministry said this species was often caught by stationary trawls as it migrated from the Tonle Sap Lake in October to look for a spawning ground and hide in deep pools along the upper Mekong.
An adult Mekong giant catfish can reproduce offspring when it is 6 to 7 years old. The fish spawned from June to July in the Tonle Sap Lake and its baby fish measures 12 to 15cm.
It noted that the Mekong giant catfish can live up to 60 years old and grow quickly.
According to the ministry, 20 years ago a Mekong giant catfish, weighing nearly 300kg and measuring 2.74m in length, was spotted at the stationary trawl. The fish was fitted with a tracker and released back into the river.