The newly released fish is equipped with a transmitter so that researchers can track it down and gather information if the fish is caught again. The fishermen get a reward if they hand the transmitters with information about the catch to the researchers.
“This information tells us how high the level of overfishing in the lake is, which is critical to management decisions,” said Ngor Peng Pun, a fish ecologist and chair of the College of Fisheries at the Royal University of Agriculture in Cambodia.
A wide range of officials attended the release of the fish, including Cambodian Director-General of Fisheries Pom Sota, who called on local fishermen to take part in the investigation, while also noting that anyone caught killing a teacher fish can rely on legal action.
There are now early indications that the fishermen are already cooperating. Several catches were reported in the days after the fish were released, including the giant Siamese carp. The fish became entangled in a string trap and was eventually released back into another reserve.
The goal is to shoot more fish. The researchers hope that the fish will be equipped with transmitters that can also capture and transmit sound waves, so that the fish can be better tracked. They also plan to release the fish in locations other than Lake Tonlé Sap, such as deep ponds in the Mekong River, in northern Cambodia, where many migratory fish are believed to breed.
“This reintroduction is only the beginning,” Hogan says. It is necessary to put in more effort and find out what works well and what does not. This way we can continue to learn and improve, which is essential to saving these iconic fish.
Hogan and his colleagues will closely monitor two released Mekong giant catfish before deciding whether to release the other three captive specimens into the lake as well. Hogan is confident that if the larger of the two released giants are caught again, this catch will be reported by the fishermen and the fish will be returned to the lake.
“It is a huge and unique fish. People instantly recognize it as something unique. To further protect the fish, the researchers named it samnang, which means ‘lucky’ in Cambodian.
The National Geographic Society is dedicated to highlighting and protecting the splendor of our world and funds the work of National Geographic researcher Seb Hogan. Chasing Giants: The Hunt for the World’s Largest Freshwater Fishwhich will be available soon.
This article was originally published in English at nationalgeographic.com
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