Recover Mekong’s forgotten fish

Why they're invaluable yet invisible — and what we can do to recover them.

Fish that walk, and even ones that talk, stingrays the size of cars, minnows smaller than your fingernail, snail-eating pufferfish and ghostly salmon carp. These are just some of the 1,148 extraordinary fish species hidden beneath the surface of the Mekong river’s murky waters for millennia.

Dazzlingly diverse, these fishes are astonishing in their own right. But taken together, they are central to the health of the entire Mekong River, and underpin societies and economies across the river basins, connecting six countries — China, Lao PDR, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and Myanmar. Each year, they participate in possibly the largest animal migration on Earth with an estimated 5 billion fish journeying along the river. And each year, they sustain the largest inland fishery in the world, which accounts for 15% of the global freshwater fish catch, and provides a huge boost to national economies. What’s more, they ensure food security and livelihoods for 40 million people in the Lower Mekong alone.

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