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Scientists breed rare Mekong River fish

VIET NAM - Scientists from the National Centre for Freshwater Fish Breeding of Southern Vietnam have successfully bred several rare species of fish indigenous to the Mekong River , saving them from the threat of extinction.

Dr Pham Van Khanh, director of the centre, which is based in the delta province of Tien Giang , said the centre had successfully bred more than 20 species that either had high commercial value or faced extinction.

They included ho (Catlocarpio siamensis) and ca coc (cyclocheilichthys enoplos).

Khanh, who was in charge of a project to breed and raise ca coc said the centre had succeeded in artificially propagating the fish after six years of study.

He said the centre's scientists had to go to the Tien and Hau rivers, two Mekong distributaries, to buy rare the species from fishers.

Huynh Huu Ngai, who was in charge of the project breed ho fish, said when the project began in 2003 he and his colleagues had to go to An Giang, Vinh Long and Dong Thap provinces to find ho, also known as "giant barb".

In June 2005, Ngai and his team successfully hatched the first ho by artificial means, with a success rate of 13 per cent.

The rate now tops 40 per cent, he said.

Ho live mainly in the lower Mekong basin in Vietnam and Cambodia , but population has declined sharply due to overfishing.

Ngai said since April 2002 he had not heard ho anyone catching a ho weighing more than 150kg in the delta. The fish grow to 300-400kg when fully mature. The centre now has 84 breeding pairs of ho, with the largest weighing 25kg.

The centre has supplied more than 10,000 ho fry to farmers in An Giang and Dong Thap provinces and to an aquaculture company in Ho Chi Minh City.

It annually supplies around 20 million breeding fish to farmers, including rare species like ca et moi (Morulius chrysophekadion) and ca chai (Leptobarbus hoevenii).

The centre is also one of the leaders in artificial propagation of catfish like tra and basa, which are now bred in the delta in large quantities for export.

Khanh said the centre was also studying artificial propagation of other rare fish species, including ca lang (Hemibagrus clongatus) and ca ket (Kryptopterus bleekeri).