A phenomenal catch by a Cambodian fisherman in the Mekong River has given us a new record holder in the category of largest freshwater fish.
The fish in question is a giant stingray. It weighed 300 kg (661 lbs) and was four metres (13 feet) long, which is about as long as a small car.
Even better, the fish was carefully tagged and returned to its river home shortly after being caught. That's where it belongs!
Have a look at this behemoth below!
BREAKING: At 661 pounds, this giant freshwater stingray (Urogymnus polyepis) just dethroned the Mekong giant catfish to become the
WORLD'S LARGEST FRESHWATER FISH!
— Jason Bittel (@bittelmethis) June 20, 2022
Why is this so unusual?
In short, freshwater fish do not reach the size of sea and ocean species. And with good reason, too. There is a lot less room for them in a river than in an open sea.
But biologists have often suspected that there are more exceptions to the rule hidden in the world's rivers. It was just a matter of finding them. This amazing example from the Mekong River proves these suspicions, and also smashes the previous record-holder. That was a giant catfish, also found elsewhere in the same river.
"In 20 years of researching giant fish in rivers and lakes on six continents, this is the largest freshwater fish that we've encountered or that's been documented anywhere worldwide," said biologist Zeb Hogan of the organization Wonders of the Mekong in a statement.
What does this mean for the Mekong?
The Wonders of the Mekong is a group that is dedicated to documenting, studying, and conserving the ecosystems in this incredible river. Though the Mekong is huge and spans many countries in southeast Asia, such as Vietnam, Thailand, Laos, and China, it is also in trouble.
"Finding and documenting this fish is remarkable, and a rare positive sign of hope," said Hogan, "even more so because it occurred in the Mekong, a river that's currently facing many challenges."
The Mekong's incredible biodiversity is threatened by overfishing, pollution, and dams. All of these things upset the balance in the river. Though a giant stingray doesn't mean that everything there is just A-OK, it does mean that life is still finding a way to flourish.
Wonders of the Mekong works with the Cambodian Fisheries Administration to help document unusual fish that are discovered there. That's why this particular fish was able to be tagged, weighed, and measured before being released back into the wild.
Are there more fish like it out there? We hope so!