Tides   

Leviathan Freshwater Fish May Become Extinct

Many stingray sandwiches there.

We expect to see very large fish in the expansive saltwater oceans, but to see fish that are 20-feet long in a river or lake is a whole different matter. 

stingrayZeb Hogan with a giant freshwater stingray, which grows to over 16 feet long. Its barb is 15 inches long, and can penetrate not just flesh but bone. Photo / Zeb Hogan

Around the World Seeking Giant Fish

Zeb Hogan was already familiar with the legendary Mekong giant catfish. After all, he'd been studying the beasts, which grow to hundreds and hundreds of pounds, for years. But when a colleague in Thailand phoned him up in 2005 to say that fishermen had hauled a 646-pounder ashore, it seemed...unprecedented. So Hogan, a biologist at the University of Nevada, Reno, did some poking around. He found some records that showed that it was not only the biggest Mekong giant catfish, but the biggest recorded freshwater fish ever caught.

And it all got him thinking: Could there be even bigger freshwater fish out there? National Geographic apparently thought it was a good enough question to fund him, so cash in hand he set out to find the answer.

garA formidable alligator gar from Texas. It can grow to over 300 pounds and live for almost a century. Photo / Brant Allen

On over 50 expeditions across six continents so far, Hogan's been wading through river after river and hooking giant fish after giant fish—building a better picture of Earth's little-understood freshwater monsters in the process. So far that 646-pound catfish stands as the world's biggest, but in his quest Hogan has found that the picture he's built ain't pretty.

"After working on this for about 10 years," he says, "it turns out that there are about 30 species of freshwater fish that can get over 6 feet long or weigh more than 200 pounds, and they occur in large rivers and lakes all over the world and on every continent except Antarctica. And about 70 percent of them are threatened with extinction." All manner of humanity's shenanigans, from pollution to dam-building to overfishing, are imperiling these giants, to the point where some may vanish before science even gets to really know them.

But not if Hogan has anything to say about it.

Read the rest of the story below.

One man's quest to save colossal fish.

Matt Simon
Wired.com



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