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. jose castro

    I could smuggle 10 people in from mexico inside that fish!

    July 28, 2010 at 3:57 am | Report abuse |
  2. J.D.

    Sad for the fish, but if the dams aren't built, then people will generate power some other way, probably with fossil fuels. Which means the choice is between the fish suffering now, or the whole world suffering later.

    People first, animals second. You 'protesters' are short-sighted and ignorant. When you put the needs of a fish over the needs of people, you are devaluing human life. So you're teaching kids that people aren't important. And you scratch your heads when they grow up to become murderers...

    July 28, 2010 at 4:28 am | Report abuse |


    July 28, 2010 at 4:38 am | Report abuse |
  4. Quan

    MInd to let me know why my other comment is invisible?

    July 28, 2010 at 4:45 am | Report abuse |
  5. gary

    Where's my dam bait?

    July 28, 2010 at 6:05 am | Report abuse |
  6. guest121

    Dam, what a big cat fish. Dam, that's big. Too dam bad.

    July 28, 2010 at 6:24 am | Report abuse |
  7. Afghan man

    Lights or some fish in the water, I want my lights on. Give me a steak and beer.

    July 28, 2010 at 6:39 am | Report abuse |
  8. C. J.

    Catfish this big used to swim in the Tennessee River in the United States. I have old pictures of people who have caught them standing with them like one would see in Florida nowadays of people standing beside a shark. They no longer exist due to the dams of TVA. WWF is right, this will kill these fish.

    July 28, 2010 at 6:53 am | Report abuse |
  9. Riel23

    Please tell me why should people in that region live without power and electricity because of some cat fish. Let them build the dam where its more viable to the conditions of the people, not the animals. All cities were build over the natural habitats of a lot of animals. Its part of progress, something we have to live with. How fair is it that a people who live with all the luxuries of 21st century in the Western world (for which massive ecological destruction took place to build and maintain) are telling some people in the developed world that they can't build a dam because of some cat fish. Think about the development that dam will bring to that region and how it will improve the lives of ordinary people.

    July 28, 2010 at 7:06 am | Report abuse |
    • greg

      a single dam saves so much burning of fossil fuels and helps so many people in so many ways – they should find another way to help the displaced animals rather than not helping society as a whole have a better quality of life.

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

    Dat's a damn big catfish, say what!

    July 28, 2010 at 7:20 am | Report abuse |
  11. Joe The Plumber

    Obama is behind this.

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

      you're an idiot.... see Eze Uba – Americans can be stupid too. lol

      July 28, 2010 at 10:38 am | Report abuse |
  12. steve

    I want one to mount on my wall and tell everyone I caught on the Mississippi. 🙂

    July 28, 2010 at 7:32 am | Report abuse |
  13. Joe The Plumber

    Oil spill in LA, Dam in China, Dying Fish... Does anyone smell a conspiracy?

    Oh yeah.. its a big one!

    July 28, 2010 at 7:33 am | Report abuse |
    • Wonster

      I smell crap... it's spilling out your mouth.

      July 28, 2010 at 10:03 am | Report abuse |
  14. Jess

    The catfish is only one facet of the river ecology threatened by dams. Dams retain the nutrient-rich sediment that would otherwise be spread out over the Mekong delta, renewing the soils that people plant in. Once the soil becomes depleted of these vital nutrients, it becomes degraded and artificial fertilizers must be used in order to keep the necessary crops growing. But honestly, as long as humans keep building and expanding in the name of "progress", the Earth as we know it is pretty much effed.

    July 28, 2010 at 7:34 am | Report abuse |
  15. MozRU

    I didn't know wrestling was involved with environmental issues.

    July 28, 2010 at 7:36 am | Report abuse |
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