Friday 4 December 2009

Thailand lake home of giant fish

Lake Full of Giants

Many fish from other tropical countries thrive in Thai lakes, and in recent years the country has become a breeding center for exotic species. Lake Monster's owner, Ittiporn Parnitpechedpong, says he began stocking it two years ago so his friends could fish for fun. But what started as a hobby has grown into an increasingly lucrative business. "People want to come and fish for these big fish, especially because many of these exotic species are new for Asia," Parnitpechedpong said. Lake Monster is now a haven for the Mekong giant catfish, a Southeast Asian beast that has seen its wild population drop by about 95 percent over the past century. At 9 feet (2.7 meters) long and 646 pounds (293 kilograms), a Mekong giant catfish currently holds the record for the largest freshwater fish ever caught (see photos). Lake Monster also hosts alligator gar, which can grow as long as 10 feet (3 meters) and weigh 300 pounds (135 kilograms). These North American giants are not listed as endangered, but habitat loss and overfishing have taken a toll on the species' preferred spawning habitats, contributing to significant population declines. Conservationists are also concerned about another giant inhabitant of Lake Monster, the arapaima, which is becoming increasingly rare in its native Amazonian habitat.

Arapaima can grow more than 10 feet (3 meters) long and 400 pounds (180 kilograms). As an air breather, the species is vulnerable to hunters with harpoons when it surfaces for air every 10 to 20 minutes.

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