Endangered giant freshwater stingray saved by scientists

A team of marine biologists have hailed the discovery of an endangered giant freshwater stingray during a recent expedition to a remote stretch of the Mekong River in Cambodia, although they have warned that the area’s biodiversity was threatened.

The ray was accidentally caught by fishermen in an 80-meter-deep pool in the Mekong River in Cambodia’s northeast Stung Treng province, and visiting scientists helped bring the animal back alive.

Zeb Hogan, a fish biologist at the University of Nevada, said it was important to find the 180-kilogram stingray, spanning four meters.

“This catch was important because it confirms the existence of these big fish in the stretch of the river,” said Hogan, who led the USAID-funded Wonders of the Mekong expedition that ended last week. .

“It’s a very remote stretch of river, it’s not well studied, it’s hugely important for fisheries and biodiversity, and it’s also a stretch of river that’s under threat,” he said. .

The team used unmanned submersibles fitted with lights and cameras as part of their effort to survey the region’s deep basins.

This part of the river could suffer “devastating ecological effects” if hydroelectric dam projects are implemented in the area, according to a statement from the expedition team. Other threats include illegal fishing and plastic waste.

Hogan, who has studied the biodiversity of the Mekong for more than two decades, said the decline in the population of some freshwater fish in the river was very worrying.

“Historically, this section of the river produced 200 billion young fish which during the flood season dispersed all over Cambodia and even Vietnam,” Hogan said.