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Malaysia's catfish sport-fishing plan makes waves

Source:  Copyright 2009, Agence France-Presse
Date:  September 29, 2009
Original URL: Status DEAD

A plan to promote sport fishing by introducing the Mekong giant catfish to a Malaysian lake has infuriated environmentalists who fear the huge fish will damage the local ecosystem.

Conservation group Friends of the Earth condemned the proposal to bring the fish -- native to the Southeast Asian Mekong basin but endangered by overfishing -- to Tasik Kenyir in eastern Terengganu state.

"To alter these ecosystems for our pleasure is not only thoughtless and selfish, it is also disastrous," said Mohamad Idris, president of the group's Malaysian branch.

"There is one thing that is of greater value than our recreation," he said. "And that would be maintaining the integrity of the lake ecosystem and the balance of the native species which cannot be duplicated or replaced."

To promote sport fishing, the Terengganu government wants to stock Tasik Kenyir with fish species that will be a draw for recreational anglers.

The plan was announced by chief minister Ahmad Said last week ahead of next month's Kenyir Lake Cup fishing competition.

Idris warned that alien fish species can displace local varieties, and that when they do become invasive, efforts to combat the problem "are usually very expensive and difficult to implement."

He said that while the Mekong giant catfish was listed as critically endangered by the World Conservation Union, efforts to save it should focus on protecting its natural habitats, not transplanting it for recreational purposes.

The Mekong giant catfish can grow up to three metres in length and reach a weight of about 200 kilograms (440 pounds) in about five years.

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