Life of Sea | Mekong Giant Catfish | One of the biggest fish in the world, the Mekong giant catfish, such as this one on the fishing boat, can reach 10 feet (3 meters) long and weigh up to 650 pounds (300 kilograms). This endangered species has suffered from overfishing, dam building and habitat destruction. Attaining an unconfirmed length of 3 m (9.8 ft), the Mekong giant catfish grows extremely quickly, reaching a mass of 150 to 200 kg in only six years. The largest catch recorded in Thailand since record-keeping began in 1981 is a female measuring 2.7 m (8 ft 10 in) long and weighs 293 kg (646 lb).
This specimen, caught in 2005, is widely recognized as the largest freshwater fish ever caught (although sturgeon can far exceed this size, they can be anadromous). Thai Fisheries officials stripped the fish eggs as part of a breeding program, and intend to release it, but the fish died in captivity and was sold as food to local residents
Mekong giant catfish is perhaps the most interesting and most threatened species in the Mekong River. For this reason, conservationists have been a kind of species "flagship" to promote conservation in the Mekong. With recorded sizes up to 10.5 ft (3.2 m) and 660 lb (300 kg), the Mekong giant catfish currently holds the Guinness Book of World Records position 'for the largest freshwater fish in the world.
Although research projects ongoing, relatively little is known about this species. Historically, the natural range reaches of the Mekong fish low in Vietnam (above the tidally influenced brackish river deltas) all the way to the north of the river in Yunnan province of China, covering nearly the entire 4800-km length of the river. Because of the threat, the species is no longer inhabit most of the natural habitat, it is now believed to exist only in small, isolated populations in the middle Mekong region. Fish congregate during the early rainy season and migrate upstream to spawn.
They live mainly in the main channel of the river, where the water depth of more than 10 m, while researchers, fishermen and officials have found this species in the Tonle Sap River and Lake in Cambodia, a UNESCO biosphere reserve. In the past, fishermen have reported a number of fish in the Mekong's tributaries, today, however, essentially no sightings were reported outside of the main channel of the Mekong River and the Tonle Sap region.
In Anthropologists Cookbook '(1977), Jessica Kuper noted the importance beuk pa to the Lao people and said, "In the past, this is the big fish, which is found only in the Mekong River, quite a lot, but in recent years the amount taken each year has been reduced to forty, thirty or twenty, and perhaps in 1976 or even less. This is sad, because it is a noble fish and a mysterious, respected by the Lao