Thai villagers race to save giant catfish from drought-ravaged reservoir

Dozens of citizens in Thailand are battling to save giant catfish stranded in a drought-ravaged reservoir.

The pond in Phrae, northern Thailand, had been around 20ft deep most years since it was opened in 1995 to provide water for agricultural use.

But a lack of rain combined with recent heatwaves - caused partly by warm phase El Nino - have seen water levels plunge to just a few feet deep with cracked banks drying up.

Locals noticed several fish floating on the surface of the water on Saturday (May 25) and began the grim task of removing the bodies, with each carcass weighing up to 150kg.

Large numbers of Mekong Catfish were then found drowned in the water. The massive creatures were filmed being pulled out of the reservoir and laid on the banks before being carried away.

With no sign of rain in the coming days, villagers and local officials have now begun frantically trying to catch the remaining fish in the reservoir so they can be transferred to different ponds.

Resident Kanyasorn Tintip: ‘’There has never been a drought this severe. It is the first time I have seen so many fish killed by it.

‘’The fish are very heavy and there is more than two tonnes of fish that have died. It is a waste of life.’’

Somnuek Duangnai, President of Nam Lao sub-district, said: ‘’We are working with the Royal Irrigation Department and Phrae Provincial Fishery Office in order to find ways to help the aquatic animals in the basin, especially the giant catfish.

‘’The general opinion was that it would be better to remove them from the water while waiting for the reservoir to be replenished.

‘’There were at least 25 that drowned in the mud. We had to mobilise many forces to assist with the evacuation of the fish. Villagers are helping by also catching them.’’

Last month, soaring temperatures reaching 40 degrees Celsius and a lack of rain - made worse by El Nino warm phase. It caused households and businesses in tourist hotspot Phuket in the south of the country to suffer a shortage of ta water.

Video taken at the Bang Niew Dam reservoir showed how some channels were now bone dry and the water level has dipped so low that the rocky banks had been exposed.