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World’s largest fish under threat of extinction

The survival of some of the world’s largest freshwater fish — including a
giant catfish — is threatened by a series of hydro-power dams planned for
the Mekong River, a leading environmental group has warned. 

The construction of a particular dam in northern Laos would disrupt the
migration of four of the world’s top ten largest freshwater species to
crucial spawning grounds, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) said.

In its report River Giants: Giant Fish of the Mekong, WWF said the catfish
that grow up to 350kgs (772lbs) and freshwater stringray that can weigh in
at 600kgs (1,320lbs), would be threatened with extinction if the plans
go-ahead.

China has already completed four hydro-power dams on the Mekong, while another
11 are being built or planned in Laos, Thailand and Cambodia. Other smaller
dams are proposed along its tributaries.

The Mekong is south-east Asia’s longest river, rising in Tibet and flowing
through southern China, Burma, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam before
reaching the South China Sea.

But WWF’s most pressing concern in the hydropower plant planned for Sayabouly
province, in Laos, which boasts ambitious plans to supply electricity to
south-east Asia in an effort to become the “battery” of the region.

The elusive giant catfish swims from Cambodia’s Tonle Sap Lake up the Mekong
to breed in Laos and northern Thailand.

“A fish the size of a Mekong giant catfish simply will not be able to swim
across a large barrier like a dam to reach its spawning grounds upstream,”
said Roger Mollot, a freshwater biologist for WWF in Laos.

Yet the river plays also host to a many unique fish including the vast
stingray — the world’s biggest freshwater fish — a giant barb and dog-eating
catfish, so-called because of its pension for dog carcasses.

“More giant fish live in the Mekong than any other river on earth,” said Dang
Thuy Trang, co-ordinator for WWF’s Greater Mekong Programme.

“Currently, the lower Mekong remains free-flowing, which presents a rare
opportunity for the conservation of these species, but the clock is ticking.”

The plans for the new dam are currently under scrutiny by the Mekong River
Commission — an international body made up of Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and
Vietnam. But WWF is urging it to veto the plan on the grounds of its effects
on the wildlife, fishing and agriculture in the region.

The Telegraph
Categories: Local News, Mekong River
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