“People have been saying that the Mekong is so degraded that it cannot be fixed, but this is not true,” says Chea Seila, Cambodian program manager for the Wonders of the Mekong. “The Mekong River still flows, and the fish are still abundant.” Originating in the Tibetan highlands and winding through six countries, the 2,700-mile-long Mekong River is the world’s largest inland fishery, supporting 70 million people. The last monsoon season delivered above-average rainfall, fish stocks have increased as authorities crack down on illegal fishing, and the Cambodian government has stepped up conservation efforts. A government-backed proposal seeks to turn a 100-mile stretch of the river in northern Cambodia that spawns up to 200 billion fish each year into a UNESCO World Heritage Site instead of building two dams there. Earlier this year, fishers who caught a Mekong giant catfish weighing more than 200 pounds released it in a special ceremony, saying it would be bad luck to kill such a special fish.

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