The Vietnamese Directorate of Fisheries required its subordinates in Ho Chi Minh City to verify whether a recently-circulated video capturing the release of an arapaima gigas that allegedly took place at a wharf in the city is true or not.
Captioned 'Releasing 90-kilogram (198 pounds) arapaima gigas,' the 30-second video showed about 10 people on a boat returning a large arapaima back to the water.
The location of the boat was believed to be at a wharf in District 8, Ho Chi Minh City.
Arapaima gigas, also known as pirarucu, is an air-breathing fish that is native to the rainforest rivers of South America’s Amazon Basin and nearby lakes and swamps, according to National Geographic.
Among the largest freshwater fish species, it can grow up to 15 feet long and weigh up to 440 pounds, though fish that big have not been reported for many years.
It preys mainly on smaller fish, but can eat many other creatures given its size.
The species has been introduced to parts of East Asia for fishing, pets, and accidentally.
Arapaima are listed as endangered according to the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), thus their international trade is regulated by non-detriment finding (NDF) procedures.
The video in question quickly went viral after being uploaded on social media and stirred mixed opinions.
Some netizens commented that the arapaima in question could cause harm to other fish species in the area, given its diet and enormous size, which could create an ecological imbalance.
Some others went as far as stating that the fish could pose a danger to humans.
During a discussion with Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper on Monday afternoon, Tran Dinh Luan, general director of the Directorate of Fisheries, said that the agency ordered the Sub-Department of Fisheries under the Ho Chi Minh City Department of Agriculture and Rural Development to verify the authenticity of the video.
In Vietnam, arapaima is neither on the list of aquatic species permitted for trading nor the lists of invasive alien species or potentially invasive alien species, according to Luan.
Therefore, there has been no official assessment on the risk of arapaima causing ecological imbalances or threatening human life, the official stated.