In a historic announcement, Guinness World Records has officially recognized a colossal discovery: a 661-pound (300-kilo) stingray found in Cambodia’s Mekong River holds the title of the world’s largest freshwater fish. This remarkable feat, announced by a Guinness World Records adjudicator on November 14, 2023, marks a significant moment in the realm of aquatic conservation.

Discovered by local fishermen in June 2022, this massive stingray, equivalent in weight to three baby elephants, captured the attention of conservationists worldwide. Following its capture, a collaborative effort involving experts from the Wonders of the Mekong project, funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and officials from the Cambodian Fisheries Administration and the Inland Fisheries Research and Development Institute of Cambodia, was initiated to study and protect this rare mega-species.

Led by Zeb Hogan, the project lead of Wonders of the Mekong, researchers measured the female ray, affixed an acoustic homing tag, and released her back into her natural habitat. This tagging effort aims to track the stingray’s movements and identify critical habitats essential for the survival of this endangered fish species.

The recognition of the giant freshwater stingray as the world’s largest freshwater fish underscores the urgent need for conservation efforts. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature highlights the perilous status of this species, which faces the threat of extinction due to habitat loss and overfishing.

Acknowledging the significance of this milestone, U.S. Ambassador to Cambodia W. Patrick Murphy reaffirmed the United States’ commitment to biodiversity conservation in the Mekong River Basin. He emphasized the importance of collaborative initiatives to protect endangered species and ensure the sustainability of Cambodia’s fisheries, vital for the livelihoods of millions of Cambodians.

In response to the Guinness World Records announcement, the Cambodian Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) and the Wonders of the Mekong project are spearheading a conservation strategy. This strategy involves convening a team of Cambodian and international scientists to share knowledge and develop tools for the protection of the giant stingray.

H.E. Has Sareth, representing the Cambodian Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, expressed full support for the conservation efforts, emphasizing their alignment with Cambodia’s commitment to sustainable development and food security.

The giant stingray’s significance extends beyond its record-breaking size. It serves as a symbol of the delicate balance between river basin development and environmental preservation in the Mekong region. Ms. Chea Seila, program manager for Wonders of the Mekong, emphasized the importance of protecting the Mekong’s biodiversity to ensure its abundance for future generations.

As Cambodia embarks on this journey to safeguard its aquatic treasures, the giant freshwater stingray stands as a beacon of hope, inspiring collaborative action to preserve the rich biodiversity of the Mekong River.

Image/Source: USAID