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Long distance migration and marine habitation in the tropical Asian catfish, Pangasius krempfi

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A synthesis of catch data from southern Laos and life-history information indicate that adult Pangasius krempfi, an important Asian catfish, migrates up the Mekong River from the South China Sea in Vietnam past Cambodia, arriving in southern Laos each year in May. Strontium concentrations in the otoliths of river-caught P. krempfi are, on average, three to four times higher than the levels of strontium in the otoliths of related freshwater species, indicating marine and estuary habitation for fish caught in southern Laos. Pangasius krempfi muscle tissue samples from the same fish also exhibit stable isotope (15N and 13C) values characteristic of marine environments. The results of this investigation support the conclusion that P. krempfi is anadromous, spending a part of its life at sea and in the brackish water of the Mekong Delta before returning to spawn in fresh water. The fish travels at least 720 km to the Khone Falls in southern Laos, and possibly further. Spawning probably occurs in fresh water from June to August at which time young fish move down the Mekong River to the Mekong Delta. The data answer a previously unresolved question (the long-distance migratory behaviour of P. krempfi) and have important implications for the management and conservation of Mekong River fishes.
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Keywords: Asia; Mekong River; anadromy; conservation; fragmentation; migration

Document Type: Regular Paper

Affiliations: 1: Hawai’i Institute of Geophysics and Planetology, School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology, 2525 Correa Road, Honolulu, Hawaii 96822, U.S.A 2: University of Wisconsin-Madison, Center for Limnology, 680 North Park Street Madison, WI 53706, U.S.A.

Publication date: 2007-09-01

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