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3rd article...

I'm a bad guy...3rd article/column has got me so excited I finished it up
tonight so I'm sending it out a bit early...It will go to the TFH editor 
Tommorrow but you  guys get it today ...:).....1.2 million readers a
month get this stuff from me go figure  :)

Robert Rice

Save A Native Eat An Oscar <:)((((<

Check Out the Native Fish Conservany at NFC at actwin_com

         Once Caught , Once Bought, Never returned !
    Aquarist take on the problem of exotic introductions
               Robert Rice robertrice at juno_com

The  invaders  are  here  scores  of   them  outhustling   ,
outnumbering  and  dining  on the  weaker  rightful  owners.
Pushing them out of their homes on onto the fringes of their
former  homelands.  Sounds terrible doesn't  it ?  It
sounds like  a case for Amnesty International. It's not
though , it's a case for the Exotic Removal Team. You see
the invaders are the  many  types  of  escaped aquarium
species  living  and reproducing in the deep south. It's
easy to pass  the  blame on who let em lose. Some say it was
the aquaculture industry , others  say  it was individual
aquarist , sick  and  tired  of feeding  their now too large
pets , others blame it on misguided fisheries managers. At
this point  it  really does  not matter any more because
they are out there in  the hundreds  of thousands. They are
choking out native  species and  causing  chaos in the food
chain. It's a mess.  In  the deep  south we have Jewel
Cichlids, Oscars, Mayan  Cichlids, Pacu's,  Pleco's,  and
countless other  African  and  South American species
calling the USA home. Us Aquarist have  this environmental
mess properly laid at our feet.

Well in  an  ironic twist Aquarist are giving those  same
native species  they put in peril a helping hand. We at the
Native Fish Conservancy have come up with a unique twist to
further fund conservation projects and fight back against
the exotic hordes. Our solution, Exotic Removal Teams. Teams
of  people who  like to collect and who have an
environmental passion about  the whole exotics issue. It's a
very simple concept. Let's collect exotics , auction the
small ones to northern fish clubs and terminate the rest.
Everyone wins,  exotics  are  removed, folks have  fun  and
the  NFC literally  gets  paid  by aquarist to do
conservation  work (exotic  species removal).  A great idea
, the  money goes into  a separate account and will
accumulate until it  is  a sizable  enough amount to do a
special conservation  project like  buying  land  and
easement rights  on  environmentally sensitive waterways  or
funding  an  endangered   species breeding   project.

What better way to fund  Native  Fish Conservation than off
the backs of the introduced exotics ?  This  is  a  great
example of how Aquarist can do  a  little something extra
and make a big conservation difference. It all started with
simple sentence in a note I wrote to our  email list  at
NFC at actwin_com . I asked the  rhetorical  question "Wouldn't
it be nice if we could ship some of those Cichlids up  north
to fund NFC's projects ?" Suddenly it was  like  a switch
was  thrown, members and non members  from  Southern Florida
suddenly chimed in "I'd be willing to  collect  XYZ Cichlids
every  month  if  it would  help" , other  folks up north
volunteered to contact their aquarium societies and  arrange
shipping   dates  to  coincide  with  upcoming  events and
auctions.  In just a few days the program was fully  fleshed
out  with  an  Administrator (Daryl Roche email Phylesis at aol_com ) a 
WEBSITE to handle auctions at http://members.xoom.com/nativefishes
 and a volunteer team tohandle the project from beginning to end. Just
like that an idea became a reality . Aquarist were now part of the
solution. Granted this little program won't change the world
but it is a start. A very good start.

It was decided early on to follow a good science approach to
the whole issue. So the Once caught , Once Bought , Never
returned  concept became policy. Here's what Once Caught,
Never Returned  means, when an exotic is caught by a NFC
Exotic Removal Team Member it will never be returned to any
watershed in this country period. That means every collected
large Cichlid is humanly destroyed  and sometimes eaten. The
Large Cichlids are just about impossible to economically
ship due to their spiked dorsal fins. The smaller ones are
kept in quarantine ponds awaiting the next auction. If no
acceptable offer is tendered they are terminated. Sometimes
literally 100's of Cichlids , plecos and the like are caught
in a day. More than we could reasonably sell . They are
humanly destroyed , no exceptions. The same goes for all of
us in the NFC ERP when it comes to sportfishing , any
exotics caught are never returned period. The only
exceptions are  for species regulated by fishing agencies as
sport fish such as Peacock bass. Once Bought , Never
Returned applies to all the buyers of these exotics. We
require them to agree to never release any of the fish or
their progeny into any waterway , period. It's obvious that
Aquarist should take responsibility for the many exotics
released out there.  We should all take an aggressive
approach to keeping our fish where they belong , in our home
This program is a good solid program for several reasons.
First the law is on our side, in most cases the collection
of exotic fishes is unregulated . You can collect as many as
you want as often as you want .  The state agencies are as
sick of them being there as we are. So they are all too
happy to have someone remove them. Second Aquarist are
becoming much more conservation minded and realize that if
this rate of exotic releases continues we risk serious
legislation limiting or banning the import of exotics. We
have been sloppy  stewards of our native flora and fauna the
time is right for all of us to do better. This activism
makes all the difference in the world. So get involved.

Aquarist often speak with disdain about the ecological
fiasco that is the Rift Lakes. The wonderful Rift Lakes and
their  Cichlids are in serious peril because of exotic
introductions , pollution and bad lake management. You name
the problem, the Rift Lakes have it.. The Nile Perch munches
his way through one unique Rift species after another. In
less than ten years it may very well be beyond repair. It is
very sad. Aquarist rightly speak out against this
unjustifiable ecological tragedy. Now for the irony these
same Aquarist intentionally released Oscars and Mayan
Cichlids into the Everglades .Today these Cichlids along
with government introduced Tilapia are the dominant fish
species in the Everglades. The Everglades America's shining
jewel of biological diversity is now a bit too diverse. We
Aquarist should be very embarrassed for what we have done to
the Everglades. I personally am. The biblical adage about
removing the log  in your own eye comes to mind when I think
about the Everglades and the Rift Lakes. Aquarists really
dropped the ball on this one.

Enough Carping (Ugh Carp now that is another long story )
about the wrongs that have been  done . I'd rather talk
about fixing the problem. If Aquarist on a greater scale got
involved with Conservation organizations  we could make a
huge difference. We Americans spend more money on our fish
hobby than most small countries GNP.So I will ask you to do
three things. First VOW to never release an unwanted
Aquarium fish to any waterway period. Freeze em ,smoke em ,
trade em, eat em but never release em. Second Cough up the
10 -20 bucks and join the Native Fish Conservancy , Nature
Conservancy , Audobon Society  or any other not for Profit conservation
organization. Even if you get no more involved
that being a passive member your membership counts for alot.
Third  take the time to learn about your local flora and
fauna. Take your kids, your date , your dad , anyone you can
find collecting and watching. It's the best way to learn is
to observe. There are also great books available on the
wildthings  where you live . Find them via the web (check
out the NFC WEBSITE for links to most all of em ) or your
state fisheries department or your local bookstore. FYI I just
read the new Fishes of Missouri , loved it . Had a nice
chapter on keeping natives in the home aquarium.

 As you can  see  this  is  a  very worth  while and
practical project that could use your help. If you live down
south and would like to join or create an Exotics Removal
Team in your town . or if you or your Aquarium Society is
interested in Florida Wild Caught Cichlids and Plecos and
the like for your next Society Function Please contact the
ERP administrator .

Daryl Roche
email Phylesis at aol_com
SASE to 425 N.E. 12th Ave.
Ft. Lauderdale Fl.