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Discussion Forum I

Here you will find an update of the outcomes of on-going discussions on the Aquarium Preservation Programme. Every month, the initial proposal will be re-edited taking into account all the information, ideas, and views of the contributing participants. We thus hope to reach a final proposal which will be both practical and well documented.

Response 1:

Cher Anton,

Ich habe mit Antoine auf deinem Entwurf schnell diskutiert. Die AFC wird zu diesem intiative gehφren. Wir haben unseren Verwaltungsrat am 25. Mδrz, und daί in diesem Moment unser Beitritt bestδtigt sein. Aber du kannst die AFC alls Teilnehmerin schon rechnen.

Amitiιs

Robert Allgayer, AFC www.francecichlid.com

Response 2:           

Dear Anton,

I am the webmaster of the IGL website (http://www.igl-home.de). The IGL is one of the “aquarists organisations” which have a good networking for exchanging fishes to keep the species pool alive. For example, we have several members who are able to breed M. kretseri successfully. Lately, the Parosphromenus working group published a call species conservation programme for Parosphromenus (http://www.igl-home.de/makropode/2005.7-8.htm#finke ) which exactly is in synch with your call. I am myself a working group leader for snakeheads within the IGL. We are completely aware of the sad fact of small endemic Channa species. One of the goals is to produce and to promote the information on breeding snakeheads, so that a conservation programme can be started if possible. I will inform the IGL of your project and I am hoping to get some positive results in respect of it. Please, put me on your email list for this project and keep me informed about your actions and results/drawbacks.

Christian Kanele, Webmaster, www.igl-home.de

Response 3

I think Anton’s proposal is a very good one; we are actually trying  to set-up something of the kind first in French speaking Switzerland through the ARCAT (http://www.arcat.ch/), but of course would be ready to spread further. However, I don't completely agree with Anton, in that I think that breeding endangered species in the aquarium is not an alternative to protecting them in their place of origin. I believe that conservation minded aquarists should unite with conservation minded scientists and professionals (public aquaria, aquarium trade, etc) to promote fish biodiversity conservation in the world, especially for these (often of small size) species, which are of no direct economic (food) importance apart from being occasionally of ornamental value. In spite of the failure of ACN, I still think something should be done at an international level to provide fishes with a lobby somewhat comparable to what exists for birds, mammals and even some groups of herps. I think this is also essential for the long term survival of our hobby.

I would just not like the aquarists to think that aquarium preservation is the only thing they can do and that this is sufficient. As for our West Switzerland (French speaking!) effort, I do believe that it is best to organize the conservation-breeding of rare or valuable strains of fish on a local basis and also in some cases on a family or sub-order of fish basis. Then to organize a global network of smaller networks. This because it is not so easy to move fishes around from one country to another and even less from one continent to the other. So if a few aquarists who agree to maintain one species together live not too far apart, it will be easier for them to exchange fishes if they need to do so. But of course from time to time there are opportunities to exchange fishes over larger distances, exactly as we did already a few times.

As for my personal involvement, I am quite ready to help and advise.

Patrick de Rham

Response 4:

Hi Anton!

Your project is wonderful!!!  Attached you will find the C.A.R.E.S. Preservation Program document in Word.  Your project is of great interest and I am so glad that you wish to have C.A.R.E.S. included!  The portion of your text that struck me is that hobbyists may not be interested in protecting species that are endangered. I felt compelled to emphasize an awareness of the reality of the critical nature of the situation. Please let me know if you would like for me to be of any assistance with editing or any other work on your program.  I offer editing, as that is one of my jobs that I do - I am happy to do whatever that you may wish to help out!

All the Best Anton!

Claudia Dickinson, AKA, C.A.R.E.S. programme

Response 5:

A few thoughts (on what is clearly a great idea) which are of a somewhat practical nature. What is the basic unit we’re trying to protect, a species or a population? Anton uses both.

Who defines endangered? How is it monitored? How do you stop the project becoming e-Bay for rare fish and how do you protect the disclosure rights of the members (not to mention data protection issues) if the law changes and people suddenly have illegal fish?

Who runs the website that stores the database of species? Who pays that person and for disk space and bandwidth usage, upgrades it as technology changes and who vets if for wrong or malicious content?

What is meant by “the programme will link with similar programmes” - pragmatically, what does that actually mean in the real world and how can duplication and confusion be avoided?

Happy to post and promote on my forum when the final piece comes out.

Julian Dignall, Webmaster PlanetCatfish www.planetcatfish.com

Response 6:

Dear Anton,

many thanks for the attached text of your breeding program, which is actually a very good one (as expected from you, Toni!). As the editor in chief for the AMAZONAS magazine I would very much like to support you in a way. Usually projects such as yours are a topic for our so-called “magazine-part” which in brief puts a spot light on something. In this case such a spotlight will not be enough, I think. Anton, would you think it is possible for you to make a German version, add some of your best pictures of breeding rare fish and bring it in the breeding and maintenance part of the magazine? In the article we will publish your website address and other details.

Thanks a lot for the interesting stuff, I wish you all the best luck.

Hans-Georg Evers, author and Editor in chief, Amazonas

Response 7:

In theory I think the idea is a fantastic and could have a great deal of potential.  The preservation of the species within the hobby is of vital importance to ensure that pure strains exist on a continual basis.  I also agree that the internet is the only platform that would allow for such a program to occur.  I must however agree with the comments made by Christoph that this may be a logistical nightmare unless controlled on a smaller scale initially and then rolled out to include a wider scope.  I think the idea of a register is also very good but technically could become a bit of a “can of worms”.  If this is to be spread out on an international scale it would require the provision and maintenance of a database, capable if querying all possible variables such as location, sexual dimorphism, taxonomy.  How would this be policed?  Would all entries need to be moderated prior to acceptance to ensure authenticity? How would we stop it from being abused as a means of advertising endangered fish?   

If however a universal standard or format could be adopted for collating such information collected on a local level, i.e. the Malawi Cichlid Homepage has a register, Zebrapleco.com has a register, and Arowana.com has a register, then all relevant data would be available to those of interest.   A secondary stage would then be the deployment of that data to a central “Hub”, identifying where the latter information could be found.  

These are of course merely initial thoughts on the matter.  

In general however, I can confirm that Zebrapleco.com would be more than happy to promote the project.  We can quite happily link to the program and try to promote our little bit.  We are already in the process of trying to create an online register of breeders (currently in a very basic state) and a data-analysis database.  I see no reason why this information could not be manipulated to provide similar data to what you require. 

If this project is going to work the primary factor is awareness, and dare I say Marketing.  Instead of having a couple of sites with a page on it, why not adopt a small area of every aquatic site?  Is it worth considering RSS feeds? They provide real time information from one particular place. Jools has been experimenting with these and will be able to provide more information.

I would not expect many sites to be willing to make up a page specifically for the project; this way of linking could also turn out to be a major problem for content control for the co-ordinators and leave a lot of room for error and misrepresentation.  However it the project offered a live feed of latest news, or recent additions to the list that only took up sat 400 * 60 pixels, then I bet most sites would be willing to put this on their front page.  That way you reach every online aquarist, and make it part of the “Norm” as opposed to something that people would need to find out about.

Rob Graham, Webmaster ZebraPleco www.zebrapleco.com

Response 8:

Dear Anton,

As always, we will be happy to help in any way that we can. However what concerns me is whether the goals of this project are achievable. Some people like Ronald Nielson and Alex Saunders, to name just two, have already made similar suggestions, which unfortunately did not go far. From a practical point of view, the amount of time that would be needed, as well as the expense that would ensue, make it beyond most people’s capability. In an ideal scenario, it would be ideal to try everything that you are proposing, but I think that it is just not possible. Within Madagascar, habitat loss, alien species and all the other disadvantages, including governmental red tape and population growth probably means that it would be an impossible situation to overcome. Therefore, the only way that some of the fish species can survive is in the hobby with hobbyists and some zoos, which has been the case for a while now anyway. Sorry to sound so pessimistic, but as I have already said, we will do whatever we can to help.

Sonia Guinane  - Dave Tourle

Response 9:

Dear Anton,

I have thought of the proposal and I believe we can involve whole organisations such as the BSSW, the DCG (German cichlid society) and other institutions up to the VDA. There may be lots of people being possibly involved in this idea. I will discuss this with the persons running the societies mentioned above.  

After acceptance of the idea, we will have to think about the “how-to”. That means, a database, a mailing list or a forum and an official name. I will keep on thinking for the week and come back with suggestions.

I have circulated the proposal to the German Killifish group, the DCG, the BSSW, the Labyrinthfish group and others.

Dr. Stefan Hetz, Author, Physiologist

Response 10:

Dear Anton,

Since I started maintaining fish and realized how they are captured and kept I wanted to do something about changing the situation. So I will happily support both the aquarium preservation program but also the reintroduction to natural habitats.

Admittedly people are the worst enemies of endemic animals. Some just ignore them and want to use their space for human purposes such as buildings or farms without thinking about biodiversity. On the other hand people who support natural habitats usually haven’t got the money or the power to have their views heard and respected.

It is important, as part of the project, to try and raise awareness of the issues we are trying to address in all the countries; this will help a lot.

We also need to consider ways of enlarging our genetic pool. Exchanging fry is one way of doing it. Will we have access to F0 fish though? How will we overcome issues of cross breeding?

Another issue of importance is the legal situation in the countries of the participants. We would need to ascertain this as it may adversely affect the success of the project.

Keeping in touch regularly and moving things consistently will safeguard the success of the project. Internet is the best way to communicate over the world and we can arrange, in addition, meetings to discuss pertinent issues or sum up the work done to-date.

Thanks for alerting me to your proposal, I support it 100%!

Delfim Machado

Response 11:

Dear Anton,

Here is some comments on your proposal:

Firstly, I agree with your concerns about the motives of some aquarists regarding natural preservation and reintroduction. This is why I think an organisation may help in bring focus into these efforts.

Certainly it would not make much sense to discuss reintroductions without a proper structure to ensure sustainability on-site. Who would guarantee for the quality of the strains to be re-introduced? Who would extirpate introduced species (e.g. Tilapia, Gambusia, etc.)? Who would effectively enforce that the area where the fish have been re-introduced remains effectively protected? Reintroductions could only work in the context of national parks. I understand that even in parks, there are already severely disturbed freshwater systems, simply because so far the eyes of those who plan the parks stop at the surface of the water. These systems would have to be rehabilitated first. I believe that, reintroducing a species in an area not protected by law and subject to ongoing disturbances is a waste of time and money, e.g. reintroducing Paretroplus menarambo in Lake Sarodrano would probably not work - local fishermen may be happy for a while, but that’s it..

Regarding your comments on positive lists and importing of new fish I do agree that this is indeed something we need to deal with. It has already started, as e.g. Germany (and actually, I believe this originates from a EU-wide decree) now requests import permits with veterinary certificates even for private hobbyists who want to import live fish - even if they just bought them from a pet shop outside Germany. I had to go through this red tape when I imported the Bedotia from Denver last September. It costs a lot of money and time. Again, this is another situation where working within an institution could help a lot. For example import permits are much easier to obtain for a Zoo or University, than for a private individual. If the Zoos, Universities, and private individuals cooperate within the framework of an organisation, then it makes things much easier.

I think we need to face the fact that collections by private individuals are going to be almost impossible (legally) in the near future. There is some justification for this, maybe, but again, “the road to hell is paved with good intentions”. Laws and regulations are “per se” inflexible and often hit the wrong people. I don’t think more of CITES or other regulations will change the mentality of the trade or the average hobbyists. “New” species for the hobby may be very difficult to obtain in the future, but perhaps this is happening because indeed a lot of damage is being done to wild populations that may not seem threatened at present, but may be very soon. Let’s face it, in a way the aquarium hobby is reaping what it has sown.

For the reasons highlighted above, amongst others, I agree with the proposal of aquarium preservation. But I believe there must be some differentiation which needs to take care of the interests (and the human nature) of different individuals. An example from the rainbowfish “scene”. There are currently two international organisations, IRG and ANGFA, which together keep and breed many, many species and forms that for most of them have been imported only once. So far, it is working more or less well, but it happens regularly that some species are lost, eg. Chilatherina axelrodi was one (a friend of mine managed to get some back from Australia recently, again a major financial and logistical effort, as you can imagine!), and there are more. Some people keep species over years in their tanks, others are only after the new “fad” and will pay thousands of Euro for 5 fish of a new fancy rainbow (true story!). At the moment, “survival” of a species in the hobby is left to chance. There have been attempts at keeping stock lists within the IRG, they all have failed because 90% of the members don’t care, 8% are interested but don’t have the time or are too lazy, and then you have the 2% of “activists” who will do it anyway, regardless of other’s people’s opinions about their mental health or else ;-)

So in summary, one big organisation to take care for captive conservation for all freshwater fish may be like taking step 2 before step 1. I believe organisations should first form according to specialised interests, either according to regions of particular interest  (ANGFA and IRG, hopefully someday Madagascar) and/or to special interests (eg, cichlids, livebearers, etc. - many of these are already there and some of them are doing good work already). Then the next step would be to try to federate these in a sort of “umbrella organisation”, which would focus specifically on conservation and captive breeding as a first priority, in cooperation with academic institutions and zoos, and in a second stage, work with conservation-focussed groups (eg, IUCN, WWF, and the like) to assess where and when reintroductions in the wild and consideration of the specific situation of freshwater fish can play a role in future conservation efforts, national park designs, etc. There was an embryo of such an umbrella group, the Aquatic Conservation Network, in which for example Patrick de Rham played a role. Maybe it could be revived? But for the moment, and thinking of Madagascar specifically, I believe it would help tremendously if a specific organisation was formed to look after the fish fauna of the Grande Ile. We have the necessary networks to announce this very widely and attract interested people, and Alex’ website could form the basis for a communication tool that can be expanded endlessly, to include news, stock lists, maybe even someday a journal, etc. Public attention is the key, as it also affects those who make the regulations. If it is visible for all that such an organisation is not just an extended pet shop, then things may slowly change for the better.

Once again, I am fully with you on this proposal!! I hope we can get something going.

Cristophe Mailliet

Response 12:

Dear Anton,

This is such a complex task, with a wide variety of variables, that I find my mind swimming at the idea of cohesively dealing with the entire problem as a whole, and I think this is the common problem with conservation in general.  People, whether they are professionals, dedicated hobbyists, or a mix of the two most likely become overwhelmed with the problems and relent before even a start is made.  As Rob Graham pointed out, we’ve been here many times before in the hobby (and trust me, in the profession as well), and each false start drains enthusiasm and commitment from the group.  This is why I’m so vocal about the idea of starting slowly; each false start causes us to lose more and more of our audience.

I agree with you that there is no good reason why we cannot bring the fish community together to aid in species conservation.  Certainly, with the global community and instant messaging, we can connect people with like minds and species to ensure the lone dying male or female phenomenon not continue.  There is a problem, or a looming problem, with permitting and such, but if we are able to form a cohesive group with representatives and a defined mandate perhaps we can smooth some of these wrinkles before it is too late.  I don’t think we should completely remove ourselves from the idea of participating in “in-situ” conservation, but I think our efforts to begin with, should be focused on what we know best, captive fishes. 

But I see other problems ahead as well.  I’m not saying that these are insurmountable, but we must not be naive about human behavior if we are to make a solid go at conservation.

1.       When speaking about Madagascar fishes previously it was pointed out that people do not like the idea of someone else telling them what to do with their fish.  How do we deal with this, if we deal with it at all?  How can we get fish where they are needed?  I can see the argument brewing about who gets the lone fish, the person with the male or the female.

2.       As you mentioned in your tale about hummingbirds, many people, for whatever reason, are not forthcoming about their “collections”.  For some this is a privacy issue, for others a fear of theft, perhaps in some pure paranoia.  Can we, or should we, have an open list of who holds what and where?  It was mentioned that a turtle group has a “blind” list of species, where only one or two people have the complete listing, perhaps this would sooth more people into cooperating.

3.        As Claudia Dickinson pointed out, how do we define endangered?  With Madagascar we could define almost every freshwater fish as endangered to some degree.  Do we follow the IUCN criteria, do we develop our own?  Do we save everything from one locale or do we save representatives, where do we draw the line?

Don’t get me wrong, I think this is a wonderful idea and I’m glad you are taking this step, we just need to keep these problems (and so many more I haven’t listed) in mind.

To get this off on the right foot I would think about:

1.       Deciding who should sit on the board of this International Institution.  This is a huge commitment of time and energy with little but moral satisfaction as reward at least for the first while.  Too often we’ve thrown ideas to the wind hoping someone will help, we need a group of people that can steer this in a unified direction.

2.       Assemble working groups to decide:

a.       The scope of our project (keep it simple to start, we can always add more goals when we become wildly successful).

b.       What is our definition of a program animal is (IUCN Red-list, CITES, our own, etc.).

c.       How we assemble species lists (Blind, open, who holds them, publishes them, etc)

d.       Other, more complicated issues, will also clearly have to be dealt with.

  1. Develop a mission statement so that we can use when approaching various institutions on a professional level.

4.      Gain support from a variety of sources (as you are doing now), but also from the Boards of various National and International specialist groups (ANGFA, IRG, AKA, ACA, ALA, IGL, etc, etc).  When we have our mission statement and decisions of our working groups we can present ourselves to these groups as a serious institution worthy of cooperating with.

5.       Gain the support of professional institutions (Zoos and Aquaria).  This will be no small task.  Technically AZA institutions (in the States at least) can only deal with other AZA accredited institutions.  Obviously there are exceptions, as fish seem to fall through their megafauna-centric cracks, but these will soon be closing.  Also, some Zoos and Aquaria have hard feelings towards the private sector.  By being professional we will be received professionally.

 This is just a suggestion, but as you can see, a lot needs to be done before we even begin to save fish.  If we really want this to work, and work well, and hopefully work beyond our generations, we need to start it on a solid foundation.  Species are going extinct as we sit and debate, that is sad fact, if we rush the formation of this group we have the potential to do more harm than good.

I’ll do everything I can to assist with this project, such a thing has been a dream of mine for awhile

Aleksei Saunders

Response 13:

Dear Anton,

I would like to inform you that the German Cichlid Association (DCG) welcomes your activities and will support them.  It may interest you that members of the DCG can participate in a sponsorship for a certain species (not necessarily rare or endangered) in order to prevent it from disappearing in the hobby. Sponsors commit themselves to keeping one or several species for at least one year.

I forwarded your mail to several people, e.g. the Arbeitskreis Zwergcichliden (Study Group Dwarf Cichlids). They keep and publish an annual record of the species kept by members.

Wolfgang Staeck, President, DCG http://www.dcg-online.de/

Response 14:

Dear Anton,

I do hope I’m in time to add my voice to all the many (hopefully) others endorsing the preservation program. As you so rightly mention, the damage being inflicted on our fishes natural habitat is an ongoing scenario which will continue no matter how well intentioned and committed environmental groups may be. The difference that private and commercial aquarists may make to the survival of these fish may be infinitesimal but it could well mean the difference between continuing survival or the total extinction of a species .No right minded individual can refuse to support anyone so concerned with the survival of these creatures and I am proud to lend whatever support I am able to this effort.

Trevor Wild, Oasis Aquarium

This information in this section is organized and compiled by Anton Lamboj, Marina Parha and George J. Reclos

If you would like to participate in this project, please e-mail us at mail@malawicichlidhomepage.com stating "ACP" in the subject line

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