660-pound stingray caught in Cambodia

For one lucky fisherman in Cambodia, the catch of the day was the world’s largest recorded freshwater fish — a giant stingray weighing a stunning 660 pounds that took about a dozen men to carry ashore.

Fisherman Moul Thun, 42, hooked the female stingray, which measured almost 13 feet from snout to tail, near a remote island on the Mekong River on June 13.

The next morning, the fisherman alerted a nearby team from the Wonders of the Mekong — a joint Cambodian-U.S. research project — which has publicized its conservation work in communities along the river.

The scientists arrived within hours of getting a post-midnight call with the news, and were amazed at what they saw.

“Yeah, when you see a fish this size, especially in freshwater, it is hard to comprehend, so I think all of our team was stunned,” Wonders of the Mekong leader Zeb Hogan said in an online interview from the University of Nevada in Reno.

The stingray was hooked near a remote island on the Mekong River on June 13.
Chhut Chheana/Wonders of the Mekong via AP

The stingray shattered the previous record for the largest freshwater fish, which had been held by a 646-pound Mekong giant catfish that was discovered in 2005 in northern Thailand.

But the catch was not just about setting a new record, Hogan said.

“The fact that the fish can still get this big is a hopeful sign for the Mekong River, ” Hogan said, noting that the waterway faces many environmental challenges, including overfishing pollution and dam building.

About a dozen men were needed to care the stingray ashore.
Chhut Chheana/Wonders of the Mekong via AP

The Mekong River runs through China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. It is home to several species of giant freshwater fish but environmental pressures are rising.

“Big fish globally are endangered. They’re high-value species. They take a long time to mature. So if they’re fished before they mature, they don’t have a chance to reproduce,” Hogan said. “A lot of these big fish are migratory, so they need large areas to survive.”

The scientists who rushed to the site inserted a tagging device near the tail of the hulking fish before releasing it back into the river. The device will send tracking information for the next year, providing unprecedented data on giant stingray behavior in Cambodia.

Wonders of the Mekong leader Zeb Hogan (above) said “all of our team was stunned” at finding the stingray.
AP Photo/Courtesy of Zeb Hogan, University of Nevada-Reno

“The giant stingray is a very poorly understood fish. Its name, even its scientific name, has changed several times in the last 20 years,” Hogan said. “It’s found throughout Southeast Asia, but we have almost no information about it. We don’t know about its life history. We don’t know about its ecology, about its migration patterns.”

Researchers say it’s the fourth giant stingray reported in the same area in the past two months, all of them females. They think this may be a spawning hotspot for the species.

Despite the record-marking catch being dumped back in the waters, the fisherman was compensated at market rate, meaning he was paid about $600.

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