Cambodian natives on the Mekong River caught what researchers claim is the world’s largest freshwater fish ever recorded, a 661-pound (300-kilogram) stingray that took a couple of extra men to bring to shore.
Boramy, which means “full moon” in Khmer, was named after the fish’s bulbous shape and was put back into the river after being electronically tagged to allow scientists to follow her movement and behaviour patterns.
“This is very exciting news because it was the world’s largest (freshwater) fish,” said Zeb Hogan, a biologist associated with Wonders of the Mekong, a river conservation project.
“It is also exciting news because it means that this stretch of the Mekong is still healthy… It is a sign of hope that these huge fish still live (here).”
Boramy was caught last week off Koh Preah, an island on the river’s northern Cambodian bank. She broke the record set in 2005 by a 645-pound (293-kilogram) giant catfish caught upstream in the north of Thailand.
After a fisherman hooked the endangered stingray, he called Wonders of the Mekong, which assisted in tagging the ray and releasing it back into the river.
According to the World Wildlife Fund, about one-third of all freshwater fish species are threatened with extinction; populations of freshwater fish weighing 66 pounds or more have dropped by 94% since 1970. In 2020 alone, 16 species, including the Chinese paddlefish, were declared extinct.
“I was concerned we would see [more extinctions] before we would see records broken,” said Hogan.
“The fact that this record-breaking fish was found is mainly significant because it shows that there is still hope for these fish,” he said.
According to the Mekong River Commission, the Mekong boasts the world’s third-most diversified fish population, yet overfishing, pollution, saltwater intrusion, and sediment depletion have caused stocks to drop.
Stingrays, in particular, have been vulnerable to these changes, with mass death events, despite conservation measures, including fishing restrictions and river guards, according to Wonders of the Mekong.