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Three fish species known as ‘sea monsters’ in danger of extinction

VietNamNet Bridge

Ca ho (Catlocarpio siamensis), vo co (Pangaius sannitwongsei) and tra dau (Pangasianodon gigas) living in the Mekong Delta are all large-size fish which can reach 300 kilos in weight and three meters in length. They are all in danger of extinction.As they have enormous size and always causes big waves when whisking their tail, the fish are called ‘sea monster of Mekong Delta’.

Scientists said the fish were found in large quantities in the Mekong Delta half a century ago, but they have become scarce and their names have been listed in the Red Book as endangered species.

The gradual disappearance of the precious fish has prompted many scientists to conduct research and save them with artificial breeding.

Vo co, or Pangaius sannitwongsei, is a species of giant freshwater fish in the shark catfish family (Pangasiidae). Though it is aggressive, its population has declined drastically mainly due to overfishing. It is now considered critically endangered.

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Regional News

Role of fisheries emphasised in reports

The Phnom Penh Post

A spate of reports by WorldFish, an international organisation that researches how fisheries can help reduce poverty and hunger, illustrates how the fishing industry supports the economic survival of many of the Kingdom’s inhabitants.

The reports give an inside look at the role fisheries play in driving employment in Cambodia, and provide a deep-dive into the minutia of the industry, such as fish prices and profit margins. They also come at a time when fish populations are increasingly threatened by controversial hydropower dam construction.

There is a strong demand around Cambodia for fresh fish, fish paste, fish sauce and fermented, dried and smoked fish. This demand drives employment for fishermen, middlemen, wholesalers, retailers, processors and exporters, one report noted.

In fact, more than 3 million people depend on the Tonle Sap lake for their livelihoods. And according to Pianporn Deetes of International Rivers, the food and agricultural systems of 60 million people hinge on the Mekong’s seasonal flood pulse and ecosystems.

What’s more, the reports argue, the economic benefits are probably underestimated.

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News, Regional News

Single surviving giant stingray to be released back into Mae Klong River

The Nation

The last surviving giant freshwater stingray of those rescued after the mass deaths of more than 50 of the rare fish in the Mae Klong River in October will be returned to its natural habitat this month.

The stingray, nicknamed “Mae Buaban”, is being kept at the Samut Songkhram Coastal Fisheries Research and Development Centre. Authorities say it will be released back into the river when the water quality improves to a safe level and the Fisheries Department officially allows the release.

“We just lost ‘Mae Nongpho’, another giant freshwater stingray, which died on February 13 due to a miscarriage. We also found that Mae Buaban had also lost her babies too, so we have no reason to keep it,” said centre director Kobsak Khetmuan.

“We wrote a letter to the Fisheries Department to ask for permission to return it to the river, as the water quality is now safe. After we receive a letter from the department, we will consult with the provincial governor and people in the province to set up a time and place for releasing the stingray back into the river this month.”

In October last year, more than 50 giant freshwater stingrays were found dead in the Mae Klong River and its tributaries in Samut Songkhram. Only two pregnant giant freshwater stingrays were saved and taken to the centre for treatment.

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News, Regional News

Agreement to conserve Mekong River fish

Khmer Times

Cambodia and Laos have formed a joint committee aimed at preserving and increasing the population of freshwater fish in the Mekong River. The committee was formed because of declining fish stocks in part due to illegal fishing and the construction of hydropower dams.

In a statement released by the Mekong River Commission, both nations met in Siem Reap province earlier this month to formulate a plan aimed at managing five species of freshwater fish that migrate long distances and are crucial for surrounding villagers’ food security.

“The joint management plan brings the two countries together to better manage our fisheries which will contribute to an increase of fish populations,” Lao National Mekong Committee deputy director-general Chanthachith Amphaychith was quoted as saying.

Representatives from the two countries also formed a Transboundary Fisheries Management team for the Mekong and Sekong rivers which will oversee conservation efforts.

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As Timber Thins, Kratie Province Turns to Fish

The Cambodia Daily

koh khnhe, Kratie Province – Half the houses in this village are deserted. Pale dust from the dirt road coats staircases falling into disrepair. Scraps of wood beneath them weather. Tractors used to cart timber are slowly rusting.

“They’ve gone, all of them,” says Soung Sophy. “You drive your car here, you won’t meet people. There are just houses.”

“There’s no economy,” says Lut Sarim, 26, helping Mr. Sophy, also 26, load blocks of concrete onto a tractor for small repairs to their house. “Some people—they plant rice. Some plant jackfruit. Some don’t have jobs—like me, now.”

The middlemen who once bought luxury wood rarely visit anymore, say inhabitants of Koh Khnhe, a commune in the north of Kratie’s Sambor district, on the banks of the Mekong River. The sleepy rural area had seen a rush in the timber trade amid more than a decade of rampant deforestation, but the money dried up as the most valuable luxury wood grew scarce.

About 15 percent of the country’s forests were cut down during a 10-year period that ended in 2013, according to satellite data. The illegal logging continued afterward, exhausting district after district, moving into more and more remote corners of the northeast.

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