Three fish species known as ‘sea monsters’ in danger of extinction
VietNamNet Bridge - Ca ho (Catlocarpio siamensis), vo co (Pangaius sannitwongsei) and tra dau (Pangasianodon gigas) living in the Mekong Delta are all large-size fish which can reach 300 kilos in weight and three meters in length. They are all in danger of extinction.


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As they have enormous size and always causes big waves when whisking their tail, the fish are called ‘sea monster of Mekong Delta’.

Scientists said the fish were found in large quantities in the Mekong Delta half a century ago, but they have become scarce and their names have been listed in the Red Book as endangered species. 

The gradual disappearance of the precious fish has prompted many scientists to conduct research and save them with artificial breeding.

Vo co, or Pangaius sannitwongsei, is a species of giant freshwater fish in the shark catfish family (Pangasiidae). Though it is aggressive, its population has declined drastically mainly due to overfishing. It is now considered critically endangered.

In Vietnam, the fish is called ‘vo co’ (snatching flag), because the fins on its back always rise high up like a flag, while it swims like a shark.

Ca ho (Catlocarpio siamensis), vo co (Pangaius sannitwongsei) and tra dau (Pangasianodon gigas) living in the Mekong Delta are all large-size fish which can reach 300 kilos in weight and three meters in length. They are all in danger of extinction.
Pangaius sannitwongsei is believed to be the strongest freshwater fish. As it has been hunted high and low, the number of fish existing in the wild has decreased dramatically. Only five vo co are reported being bred at the Southern Freshwater Aquatic Breeding Center, located in Tien Giang province.

The center has been making every effort to conserve the rare and precious fish by organizing artificial reproduction. Its staff once went to Laos and Cambodia to find the fish for research, but they failed.

Living on the lower course of Mekong River, ca tra dau, or Pangasianodon gigas, also has the same weight and size. 

This fish has a large and flat head, wide mouth with two long beard in the upper jaw. Its back is dark brown, while the fins are pale brown. Though the fish is big, it only eats aquatic plants to live.

It is nearly impossible to find tra dau fish in Vietnam in recent years. In fact, some restaurants in HCMC and Mekong Delta still serve dishes made of tra dau, but analysts say the fish are sourced from Cambodia. Meanwhile, the Lao government has prohibited catching Pangasianodon gigas.

In late 2015, An Giang’s farmers accidentally caught a tra dau fish weighing 100 kilos for in the Mekong River section near Cambodia. It was bought by an owner of a restaurant at VND40 million.

Ca ho, Catlocarpio siamensis, mostly live in Mae Klong, Mekong and Chao Phraya rivers in South East Asia. Farmers in Mekong Delta sometimes catch the fish weighing 130 kilos. The fish can be sold for hundreds of millions of dong.


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Xuan Mai

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