Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
Fishermen landed what is being hailed as a record giant Mekong catfish.
As Cambodians celebrated Independence Day on Monday, Nov. 9, fishermen near Phnom Penh made a very special catch befitting the occasion: a rare Mekong Giant Catfish, also known as the “royal fish” because of its enormous size.
“This is really extraordinary,” Zeb Hogan, a University of Nevada, Reno biologist and a National Geographic Explorer who has studied the Mekong Giant Catfish for almost 20 years, said. “It confirms that this incredibly rare and critically endangered freshwater species still occurs in Cambodia and it is still making its annual spawning migration out of the Tonle Sap Lake and into the Mekong River.”
It was the first reported catch in Cambodia this year of the elusive giant catfish, according to Department of Fisheries officials in Phnom Penh.
“At just under 7 feet in length, the catfish was larger than any catfish that has been caught in the U.S. in the last 100 years,” Hogan, a research assistant professor in the University’s College of Science and host of Nat Geo WILD’s Monster Fish show, said.
In 2005, a Mekong giant catfish was caught in northern Thailand weighing in at a whopping 646 pounds, still believed to be the largest freshwater fish ever caught.
This latest, special catch happened as Hogan prepared to commemorate the Nov. 14, 2015, opening of the National Geographic exhibition, “Monster Fish: In Search of the Last River Giants,” at the Terry Lee Wells Nevada Discovery Museum in Hogan’s hometown, Reno, Nev. The traveling museum exhibition’s six-month stay in Reno is sponsored by the University’s College of Science and follows its debut at National Geographic headquarters in Washington, D.C.
As word of the surprising catch in Cambodia spread, dozens of people gathered at the riverbank just north of the capital to sneak a peek at the seldom seen giant and snap selfies to capture the event. Hogan and officials from the Cambodian Department of Fisheries tagged the fish to track its future movement before guiding it to the middle of the river to be released. Hogan, who dove down about 10 feet with the fish to help its return to deeper waters, said the fish seemed to be in good condition.
“Swimming with the fish was incredible as always,” said Hogan, who has swum with dozens of huge fish as part of his research. “This particular fish was in better shape, not as injured, than most, so that makes me optimistic it will survive. What was really incredible is that I happened to be visiting at the time of the catch. It’s a one-in-a-million opportunity.”
Read more here