World's largest freshwater fish ends up in the pot

Thai fishermen caught a 293kg catfish, believed to have been the world’s largest freshwater fish ever recorded, a researcher said on Thursday.

The 2,7m Mekong giant catfish was netted on May 1 by villagers in Chiang Khong, a remote district in northern Thailand, and was weighed by Thai fisheries department officials, said Zeb Hogan, who leads an international project to locate and study the world’s largest freshwater fish species.

He confirmed it was the heaviest recorded fish since Thailand started keeping records in 1981.

“This is the largest individual fish of the species that’s listed as the biggest in the Guinness Book of World Records,” he said.

The fishermen had hoped to sell the fish to environmental groups, which planned to release it to spawn upriver, but it died before it could be handed over, and was later chopped up and sold in pieces to villagers to be eaten.

Hogan, whose work is funded by the World Wildlife Fund and the National Geographic Society, said he is planning to write a paper about the catch to be published in a scientific journal. “That’s the best way to document this kind of thing,” he said.

The Mekong giant catfish—which shares the title of largest freshwater fish with a close relative, the dog-eating catfish—was listed as critically endangered in 2003 after research showed its numbers had fallen by at least 80% over the past 13 years.

Fishermen believe the catfish species has been declining largely because of dams and environmental damage along the Mekong River—home to more species of giant fish than any other river, an earlier statement by the WWF and National Geographic Society said. - Sapa-AP