Close to Extinction: Bala Shark

The Bala Shark is often mistaken for a shark because of its torpedo-shaped body and its fins that very much resembles a shark. This freshwater fish is largely endangered as its population has declined by 50 percent in the span of the last 10 years. These fish was a typical Category I species, once bountiful in Sumatra and Kalimantan.

Bala Shark

Bala Shark by Blair McBride, from

It became popular world-wide as an aquarium fish in spite of its simple colouration. It very quickly led to severe overfishing which greatly wiped out the wild population.

Its popularity led it to become one of the most important species in the trade. Additionally, collectors of these fish exploited them extensively and intensively upon the discovery of their breeding grounds. The Bala Shark obtains sexual maturity at about 10-15 cm. Also, all sizes including juveniles and adults up to 15 cm in length that could be marketed were harvested by the collectors. As the species has a relatively short life-span, regular extensive collections of specimens for the trade becomes imperative. These factors and the collections even when the species was reproducing at its breeding grounds led to a distinct decline in its population after a few years. Though deforestation played a part in the over-exploitation of these species, the main factor is due to overfishing.

However, wild populations in Thailand were still maintained. Also, while the wild population continues to decline, the Bala Shark has been bred in captivity which led to the trade of this species to be almost entirely on cultured fish.