National Geographic –
From the outside Nha Hang Lang Nghe, in Danang, looks like any other respectable restaurant in Vietnam. Tables are invitingly laid out in the shade of a lush garden, and festive traditional art lines attractive brick walls. Families laugh over hot pots, and businessmen clink glasses.
Yet the veneer of wholesome normality masks a dark truth: Critically endangered giant river fish are Lang Nghe’s signature dish. Although it’s illegal to sell them in Vietnam, signs at the entryway entice diners with photos of imperiled Mekong giant catfish (“tasty meat, rich in omega-3”) and giant barbs (“good for men”), while a video showing a 436-pound giant catfish being cooked and eaten plays on a screen inside. Advertisements on social media likewise boast of the delightful flavor of the enormous fish, and of their rarity.
Lang Nghe is part of a growing trend of restaurants across Vietnam that are aggressively cultivating a new, dangerous market for megafish. The species they offer are so rare that the removal of even a few individuals—up to six a month in the case of Lang Nghe—may tip the animals toward extinction. But because wild freshwater fish don’t attract the same attention as tigers, elephants, rhinos, or pangolins, very few people know they’re being targeted—and even fewer are doing anything to stop it.