Photo: Zeb Hogan holding a large fish

Photograph by Brant Allen

About the Project

The Megafishes Project represents the first worldwide attempt to document and protect the planet's freshwater giants. The unprecedented use of freshwater has led to the declining populations of many aquatic species. Perhaps nowhere is this pattern more apparent than among the largest freshwater fish. Globally, a pattern has emerged; these big fish are disappearing.

Led by 2004 National Geographic Emerging Explorer Dr. Zeb Hogan, the project will span six continents and encompass expeditions to study 14 of Earth's most diverse freshwater ecosystems—ecological treasures—including World Heritage sites, Ramsar Wetlands of International Importance, and United Nations Environment Program Biodiversity Hotspots. Along the way, Hogan and his team of investigators will gather information about the life history, population status, geographic range, and threats associated with each focal species, and then synthesize this information into IUCN Red List Assessments and for a meta-analysis of population and distribution trends over time. Hogan will be working with a network of more than a hundred scientists and fishermen in 17 countries, as well as local people, to examine the causes and potential solutions to the global loss of freshwater biodiversity. Researchers also hope to identify the planet's largest freshwater fish.

In the 2006 pilot year, the project team conducted expeditions to the Mekong and Selenge/Baikal (Mongolia), laying the groundwork for future missions to rivers throughout Asia, South America, and North America. These efforts have already begun to yield encouraging results. For example, Hogan's work with the governments of Cambodia, Thailand, and Laos have made the capture of the Mekong giant catfish illegal in those countries. The project has also teamed with the Cambodian Department of Fisheries and the Mekong Wetland Biodiversity Program to create one of the world's first freshwater conservation concessions—a special fishing area in the Tonle Sap River aimed at protecting some of the world's largest freshwater fish species, including the giant stingray and giant barb.

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