A large stingray might be the world’s biggest freshwater fish

For 17 a long time, Zeb Hogan, a biologist, has been seeking for the world’s most significant freshwater fish. On June 13, his staff uncovered it — a giant freshwater stingray, or Urogymnus polylepis.

The ray, hauled out of the murky waters of the Mekong River in Cambodia, measured 13 feet in duration before it was returned to the river. And at 661 lbs, it was 15 lbs heavier than a Mekong big catfish caught in Thailand in 2005. Hogan said he had formerly founded that freshwater fish as the major at any time caught.

While this species of large stingray has an particularly perilous venomous barb that can reach practically 1 foot in length, they are not usually a danger to individuals. Extra generally, they wind up in the sector as a supply of cheap protein.

Fishers in Cambodia first alerted Hogan and his team at Wonders of the Mekong Task, which performs to guard the Southeast Asian river’s aquatic variety and is sponsored by the U.S. Company for Intercontinental Development, that they had caught a stingray larger sized than anyone experienced at any time found. Workforce customers rushed to the compact river island, called Koh Preah, and lined up three industrial scales. Working with a tarp, they hoisted the stingray out of the h2o and onto the scales to verify its excess weight.

The discovery comes less than a month right after another giant stingray — that just one weighing 400 lbs — was caught and produced close by. Two other tremendous rays have also been caught this year.

“The reality that the world’s premier freshwater fish was caught in the Mekong is extraordinary,” Hogan mentioned. “This is a heavily populated area, and the river faces a ton of worries, which includes plenty of fishing.”

In an undated graphic offered by Zeb Hogan, UNR International Drinking water Center, A large catfish caught on the Tonl Sap River in Cambodia. In the Mekong River in Cambodia, fishers and scientists uncovered a 13-foot-extended, 661-pound stingray — a win for conservation endeavours in the space. (Impression credit score: Zeb Hogan, UNR World Drinking water Centre by way of The New York Occasions)

In an additional to start with, Hogan’s workforce was able to healthy the stingray with an acoustic tag to monitor the animal for up to a single calendar year with an array of 36 underwater receivers that were being also recently mounted in a extend of the river.

“This is the first fish that we have tagged considering that getting the array deployed,” mentioned Hogan, who is also a investigate affiliate professor at the University of Nevada, Reno. In the months ahead, they program to tag hundreds of added fishes.

With so many big stingrays caught in modern months and all of them female, Hogan thinks this stretch of the river and the deep swimming pools it contains are a important breeding ground for the species. The location is also house to freshwater dolphins, huge soft-shell turtles, giant catfish and big barb, which is in the carp relatives.

“So it is a extremely exceptional location and very understudied,” he stated. North American and European river methods obtain much extra scientific interest.

Even though breaking the planet history was not scientifically vital, Hogan said that the existence of this fish is an indicator for the health and fitness of its ecosystem. He also hoped the discovery reminds the local group how exclusive this river is and how considerably it is in need of preserving.

Since of a blend of aspects, together with dam development, overfishing and weather improve, large freshwater fish populations are commonly in drop. And numerous species of large fish are in risk of disappearing endlessly.

“In 2020, one particular of the contenders for the world’s biggest freshwater fish, identified as the Chinese paddlefish, was declared extinct,” Hogan explained. “That was pretty sad information, and it experienced me feeling like we were heading to see additional extinctions of these major fish, alternatively than records being damaged.”

Fortunately, the big stingrays are not the only huge fish tales of late. In 2021, a document-location 240-pound lake sturgeon was caught and launched in the Detroit River. And in May, a practically 300-pound alligator gar may perhaps have damaged the Texas condition record for the freshwater fish, although the angler chose to launch the animal somewhat than destroy it and carry it in to be weighed.

“When you listen to stories about history fish, that is a very good sign,” Hogan claimed.

This write-up at first appeared in The New York Instances.