July 27th, 2010
10:41 PM ET

Group: Dams would doom Mekong River's giant catfish

The Mekong giant catfish is the world's third-largest freshwater fish species, the WWF says.

Dams proposed for the Mekong River in Southeast Asia would drive the world’s third-largest freshwater fish species to virtual extinction, according to a World Wildlife Fund report

Any of the 11 hydropower dams planned for the river’s mainstream south of China would prevent the Mekong giant catfish from migrating to its spawning grounds, the WWF said Tuesday in a news release. 

The catfish, with a maximum length and weight of nearly 10 feet and about 770 pounds, are too big to swim across such dams, said Dekila Chungyalpa, director of WWF’s Greater Mekong Program. 

If the dams prevent the car-sized fish from reaching their spawning grounds, their population will plummet, the WWF said. The portion of the river in question currently is free-flowing, according to the WWF. 

“Building [the dams] will lead to the collapse of the wild population of this iconic species,” Chungyalpa said. The catfish already are listed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources' Red List as "critically endangered." 

The dams are proposed for spots where the river travels through Thailand, Laos and Cambodia. The WWF says one in particular, planned in northern Laos, has entered a critical stage of assessment before members of the Mekong River Commission - made of representatives from Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam - make a recommendation on whether to allow its construction. 

On its website, the WWF says at least 49 other migratory species, including three other giant freshwater fish species, also are vulnerable to the development of dams on the river’s mainstream. 

The WWF says that to meet energy demands, hydropower projects could be built on certain Mekong River tributaries, as opposed to the mainstream. 

The dam in northern Laos also would reduce sediment flowing downstream to the Mekong River Delta, reducing the delta’s ability to replenish itself and lead to more coastal erosion, a statement on the WWF’s website said.

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Filed under: Animals • Cambodia • Laos • Thailand • Vietnam • World
soundoff (163 Responses)
  1. john

    thats dinner!!!!

    July 27, 2010 at 11:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • vincegopher

      I'll bring the hush puppies! Don't forget the fries.

      July 28, 2010 at 12:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Frying Pan

      This Review, Debate how ever you want to display this is Like Mc Cain and Obama's last Debate. It's a 770 pound Fish Already

      July 28, 2010 at 12:50 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Tom

    Why are they still catching the fish if its "critically endangered".

    July 27, 2010 at 11:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sefer

      Who cares about fish, this is about dam!

      July 28, 2010 at 2:33 am | Report abuse |
    • SW6blues

      Because these otherwise empoverished fishermen are feeding their families, they don't care if a species is endangered.

      July 28, 2010 at 3:24 am | Report abuse |
    • jmac

      these giant mekongs are only criticly endangered in the wild. the species itself is actually doing quite well there are even places in the US were you can actually go and catch them, as well as thailand and other asian countries.

      July 28, 2010 at 7:27 am | Report abuse |
    • brittney916

      I was just thinking the same thing!

      July 28, 2010 at 10:06 am | Report abuse |
    • esmen

      >>there are even places in the US were you can actually go and catch them
      Where??? How do you catch one that is so big?

      July 28, 2010 at 10:10 am | Report abuse |
    • mc

      The same reason people are still killing elephants for their tusks and rhinos for their horns. Try telling a poor man with a hungry family living in a hut that his family starving is less important than an elephant or a rhino. They are worth a lot more than gold. A rhino horn on the Asian market can demand as much as $50,000. That can practically feed a family for a lifetime.

      July 28, 2010 at 11:15 am | Report abuse |
    • Ealdwulf

      @mc, very true, however countries such as Botswana have realized that the ecotourism that such animals bring in far exceeds the benefit of killing them off. Where one Rhino horn may give a decent pay, having a thriving tourism industry to see these creatures would bring in more money on a long term. Certain countries are starting to realize this, and when more do they will protect these fascinating animals.

      July 28, 2010 at 1:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • rita

      They probably don't know or care that it is endangered. Their only concern is me, me, me, and my 100 children that I can't seem to stop producing. They never stop to think that their 100 children will beget 1 million offspring. There will only be pictures of catfish (of any size) once the reckless breeding habits of humans have taken their toll on the environment. Why do most humans think that it is their right to breed uncontrollably. These children are just insurance policies for the Mothers and Fathers during old age. Surely one will become educated and take care of the Mother and Father. We subsidize these types of insurance policies here in the United States. The more babies an unwed mother can have, the more subsidies she receives from the goverment. This ensures her an old age insurance policy of many children that will provide for her in old age, even though she did not adequately provide for them in childhood. Most humans don't give a flying care in the world about the planet, its creatures or its limited resources.

      July 28, 2010 at 1:15 pm | Report abuse |
  3. tiredofitall

    Well, looks like we are all out of good energy sources then aren't we? coal (global warming), nuclear (irrational fear of nukes), wind turbines (bird kill), hydrologic dams (dead catfish, dead salmon, etc) Is there anything short of we just give up and go back to a pre-electric, pre-automobile society that will satisfy the tree huggers?

    July 27, 2010 at 11:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Matt

      Pretty much, progress has been put on the back burner by people that were coddled too much as children, simple as that.

      July 27, 2010 at 11:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • herwin

      actually if you read the article the WWF isnt against building the dams, they only advice it to build the dams not mainstream but in the estuaries. the tree huggers arent against all modern days blessing, they simply want to do it with consideration for the environment, which ultimately is the very place we live in. building dams at the wrong places and destroying fish populations also means many people and their local economy depending on these fish resources will suffer.

      July 27, 2010 at 11:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bill D

      If we took 1/4 the budget we spend on smart bombs, laser guidance systems and other modern tools of war and spent it researching new energy sources, we could come up with a solution that provided people the energy they think they need and not harm the environment........oh and I guess we might have to get rid of the oil and automobile lobby.....

      July 28, 2010 at 1:24 am | Report abuse |
    • Jonathan

      Do you seriously believe that the majority of the environmental community is against all those things?

      When you make up a position to argue against even though no one seriously believes that position, it's called a "strawman" argument.

      The majority of people in the environmental community support many sustainable forms of energy production.

      July 28, 2010 at 3:36 am | Report abuse |
    • Saleem

      Typical conservative thinking. Everything is either black or white. No possibility of any shades of gray. You are either for progress with absolutely no regard for environmental concerns, or you are a flaming liberal tree hugger. Hey tiredofitall......isn't there the possibility of striking a balance between environmental concerns and progress?

      July 28, 2010 at 8:46 am | Report abuse |
    • Brad

      Jonathan and Hewrin-
      There are shades of gray... but WWF and greenpeace RARELY make those arguments in public forums. It is always black and white to the most vocal and salient environmentalists. If you're seeking reasonable debate between liberals and conservatieves, you should begin by condemning such ridiculous comments by your environmental authorities much in the same manner that the NAACP has asked the Tea Party to put a muzzle on hateful; racist remarks from its' members.

      July 28, 2010 at 10:11 am | Report abuse |
    • Matt

      Try solar and geothermal.

      July 28, 2010 at 10:27 am | Report abuse |
  4. Kerry Berger

    I honestly don't expect developing nations and particularly the Chinese to take any of this into consideration. The excuse will be the need for improving the power grid in their nation. We might as well write off the Mekong catfish now.

    July 27, 2010 at 11:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dave

      I agree. It's just like our government. the people won't get a say and the dam will be built.

      Shoot America is no different. If we want to put a highway where your house is, you better pack all your belongings and hope they give you the value of your house.

      One thing that has always baffled me is why they cannot harness lightning bolts into chargable turbines. Nature makes electricity by itself isn't there a way we can harness it without destroying the wildlife? If not I don't mind killing off a species or 2. Natural Selection is obvious in nature. If other animals want to survive they need to step up evolution a couple notches. And posting on a website and then talking about not hurting wildlife for power is funny to me, did those people plug their computer into a tree?

      July 28, 2010 at 1:25 am | Report abuse |
    • Eileen

      Agreed. Big Time.

      July 28, 2010 at 8:58 am | Report abuse |
  5. Michelle

    These things swallow swimmers whole. They need to go. 😛

    July 27, 2010 at 11:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • me

      and i hope you are the first to die

      July 27, 2010 at 11:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • EJS

      sez who, you ?

      July 28, 2010 at 12:12 am | Report abuse |
    • arthur

      You swallow things whole, yet you're allowed to live.

      July 28, 2010 at 2:32 am | Report abuse |
    • jmac

      no they don't, wrong species of catfish in fact these catfish are strictly vegitarians, hence why they don't have any whiskers and notice the location of the eyes, they are located low on the skull close to the jaw so that they can find food easily.

      July 28, 2010 at 7:49 am | Report abuse |
    • Brad

      Can't anyone sense sarcasm? This was obviously a joke. get a life.

      July 28, 2010 at 10:12 am | Report abuse |
  6. BenDover

    This article is incomplete, it has told us all about the harmful effects of constructing the dams....but what is the reason that they want to construct the dams in the first place? i like typing dam and dams.

    July 27, 2010 at 11:14 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Drew

    Hello, this is Asia! Since when does that area of the world care about anything including animal conservation, environmental protections or human rights? Face it, they don't care if the planet eventually looks like a landfill populated only by men (thanks to their preference of males over females).

    July 27, 2010 at 11:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Steve

      @Drew: And here is North America, we were always concerned about human rights, environmental protection, and animal conservations, right? Hint: slavery, huge black smokestacks, pcbs, clearing entire forests, etc...

      July 27, 2010 at 11:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • canucken

      @Steve. Hey man we're not perfect but we've moved on from most of those things. My hope was that the rest of the world would have seen what we messed up and not do the same things. Not only are they doing the same things they're doing them on an even grander scale. No hope for this planet or us as a species.

      July 28, 2010 at 12:46 am | Report abuse |
    • TTommy

      Not true. There are many, many committed environmentalist in Asia. You just don't hear about them as much as here.

      July 28, 2010 at 1:25 am | Report abuse |
    • Russ

      Maybe there are more environmentalists in Asia than are generally portrayed, however there's no getting around the many factual examples of Asian countries not enforcing (or not having) governance to fish in a sustainable fashion. Unfortunately the Asian seas will be depleted from overfishing far sooner than other parts of the world (and the Mediterranean isn't far behind). The US actually does quite a good job in this aspect.

      July 28, 2010 at 8:05 am | Report abuse |
    • aardman

      @Drew. Riiiiight, and Exxon Valdiz as well as the BP oil leak, happened in the Asia, under the aegis of Asian companies manned by Asian employees. Oh, wait.

      I am not going to defend Asian governments' record on the environment but vigilance needs to step up to match the threat and the current BP disaster clearly shows that good intentions are not enough, the US (government and citizenry) certainly is not up to the level of environmental threat that they face.

      For all your lecturing about Asian environmentalism, or the weakness thereof, I think US environmentalism also needs your help.

      July 28, 2010 at 9:02 am | Report abuse |
    • Brad

      aardman- worse spills than the BP will happen frequently in Nigeria and other parts of the world. Things just get picked up more by the media here.

      July 28, 2010 at 10:16 am | Report abuse |
    • johnn

      @steve please step outside your cave. Do you own a slave? I don't nor do I know anyone who ever has. Wherent pcbs outlawed? Neither do we cut down entire forest. Trees are cut down and then those areas are replanted. Id explainthe benifits of this but doing so to someone who believes we still have slaves is pointless.

      July 28, 2010 at 10:39 am | Report abuse |
  8. irsh

    get in my belly !!!!

    July 27, 2010 at 11:18 pm | Report abuse |
  9. fragilebamboo

    m sure when our time comes, we will have bin so lonely............. its a shame to b a human sometimes.......

    July 27, 2010 at 11:34 pm | Report abuse |
  10. zack

    huh, i doubt it....ever been to a lake in the midwest, the catfish the size of cows live right next to the damns

    July 27, 2010 at 11:35 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Gomez

    It's like you are damned if you do, and damned if you don't. They try and find an alternate energy source and people are upset because they will kill fish, then again they will be mad if they dont "go green"

    July 27, 2010 at 11:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gomez

      No Pun intended

      July 27, 2010 at 11:41 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Michaele Jaye Malta

    They should take it to Georgia Aquarium.

    July 27, 2010 at 11:45 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Post_Haste

    looks like plenty o' good eatin' to me! I'm having a BBQ...

    July 27, 2010 at 11:47 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Kevin

    I hoping this catfish not Made in China,,,,Look Like inject Too much Chemical !!!!!

    July 27, 2010 at 11:58 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Jonah

    You hoping? Look like inject too much? How did u figure out the internet?

    July 28, 2010 at 12:06 am | Report abuse |
    • Tessa

      Not everybody on the Internet is from America....sheesh

      July 28, 2010 at 1:11 am | Report abuse |
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