catfish

Whirlwind tour of Thailand

I just got back from a brief trip to Thailand. The trip was a success in that I was able to collect the last few fish samples for a migration study I'm working on, purchase 220 lbs of fish from 8 different markets around the country for a project on mercury contamination (and successfully get them through customs), visit my host family up in Mae Hong Son with a couple of Berkeley School of Journalism students who are doing a story on community conservation in my research area, and get a duffel bag full of human hair home for my wife's research on stress in women and children using hair cortisol. Not bad for 7 days of work. It did, however, require driving 3,000+ km and more than 44 hours in a car (map of route below).

Trip route. Just me, a pickup, and the open road. And coolers full of fish.

Trip route. Just me, a pickup, and the open road. And coolers full of fish.

I definitely enjoyed scoping out the fish markets throughout the northeast of Thailand. Livelihoods and local culture in this region is so strongly connected to the Mekong, it's fun to talk with local fish sellers and to see what that catch of the day is.

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I also saw the largest Pangasius catfish I've seen in Thailand in Khon Kaen, a 26+ kg individual. Sounds big, but if the saleswoman was telling the truth, this species gets well over 100 kg. 

Poisson du jour

Fish of the Day: Bagarius yarrelli (Sykes, 1841)

Bagarius yarrelli is a coveted fish sought after by many local fishermen during dry season.

Bagarius yarrelli is a coveted fish sought after by many local fishermen during dry season.

This whiskered fish, referred to in many places as goonch, can be found from the Ganges and Indus Rivers of India, throughout Southeast Asia, and south into Indonesia. In the Ngao River, a tributary of the Salween River, local children call B. yarrelli "lizard fish." One look at the textured skin and eyes of this fish and you can understand why. Several reports from the mid-19th century recorded  B. yarrelli attaining lengths up to 2 meters long (6.5 feet). Today, however, observed specimens are typically significantly smaller (~35 cm) due to intense fishing pressure through much of their range. This fish is one of the few fish in my study system that have true teeth, which they effectively use to feed on prawns, fish, and some aquatic insects. These fish prefer fast flowing currents and tend to hang out among large submerged rocks and boulders. For more information and photos, check out B. yarrelli at FishBase.org.

Bagarius yarrelli  have sharp conical teeth which aid them in catching prawns and fish.

Bagarius yarrelli have sharp conical teeth which aid them in catching prawns and fish.