for National Geographic News
In honor of the King of Thailand's 60th year on the throne, fishers in northern Thailand have promised to stop catching the critically endangered Mekong giant catfish.
The largest freshwater fish in the world, the giant catfish can grow up to 10 feet (3 meters) long and weigh 650 pounds (300 kilograms).
It is found only in the Mekong River system, which runs through China, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam.
(See Thailand map.)
More than 60 fishers made the pledge to stop catching the giant fish at a ceremony held last month in the northern city of Chiang Kong. It was one of several events to celebrate Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej's reign.
Fishers in neighboring Laos have also vowed to stop hunting the giant fish.
"[This] is the most significant development in the conservation of the Mekong giant catfish in the last ten years," said Zeb Hogan, an associate research biologist at the Mekong Wetlands Biodiversity Conservation and Sustainable Use Program.
Conservationists say that while the ban is an important step toward saving the giant catfish, more has to be done before the unique species is off the hook.
As part of that effort, Hogan runs a tracking program in which he tags the fish to discover their spawning grounds and to study their migration patterns.
"This project is the first ever large-scale attempt to use underwater biotelemetry to study fish migrations in the Mekong River Basin," Hogan said.
Hogan's research is funded in part by the National Geographic Society. (National Geographic News is part of the National Geographic Society.)
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