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FEATURE ARTICLE

The Imperiled Giants of the Mekong

Ecologists struggle to understand—and protect—Southeast Asia's large migratory catfish

M. Jake Vander Zanden, Zeb Hogan, Peter Moyle, Bernie May, Ian Baird

Figure 8. Commercial fishingClick to Enlarge Image Southeast Asia’s Mekong river supports a vast freshwater fishery. One of the species caught by local fishers is the Mekong giant catfish (Pangasianodon gigas), which according to The Guinness Book of World Records is the planet’s largest freshwater fish: It can measure 3 meters long and weigh 300 kilograms. But fewer and fewer examples of this huge fish have turned up in nets recently, and last year the World Conservation Union added this catfish to its list of critically endangered species. Although the loss of this charismatic fish would be a tragedy in itself, the plight of the Mekong giant catfish also highlights the precarious position of other Pangasiid catfish species inhabiting the Mekong river. Hogan and his colleagues explain their efforts to understand the migratory behavior of these fish in hopes of improving the chances for their long-term conservation.


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