International Cichlid Conference I

USA – Orlando, August 10-13, 1989

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The ACA Did it! The First ICC (International Cichlid Conference) turned out to be the largest, longest, and most said the best fish event ever. Steve Sommermeyer ICC Steering Committee the ICC Honary Directors, such as Allen Levey (Wardley Products), Allan Mintz (Tetra, USA), The late Merrill Cohen (Aquarium Poducts), Robert Rofan (Kordon – Novalek), Jerry Rosen (Penn Plax Products, Inc.), Lance Reyniers (Python Products), Elwyn Segrest (Segrest Farms), Tim, Mike & Sherry Hennessy (EKK Will Tropical Fish) and Heiko Bleher (Aquarium Rio) made it possible. It was probably the best and greatest line-up of International Speakers of Cichlids the world has ever seen. Below are a few photos and Heiko’s talk.


From Left: Horst Walter Direckhoff, David Herlong, Tony J. Ribbink, George Barlow, Ad Konings, David Ford, Ross Socolof and Heiko Bleher. But these are only some of the top speakers at this great event.

Here is Heiko’s lecture at the ICC 89:

Is the Turn of the Century the End of the Tropical Freshwater Fish Fauna?

CITES is a world known by many people. CITES aim is to sustain the remaining, but drastically reduced, animal kingdom. CITES is an agreement over 90 nations have joined. CITES is an organization to protect wildlife.

But isn’t it too late? And is the CITES Organization the definite programmed death of all wildlife? I know it is! I have seen certain animals almost completely disappear from the globe after they were placed on the endangered species list.

Brazilian Spix’s Macaw (Cyanopsitta spixii) were sold for $50.00 in the 1960’s, fetching $25,000.00 after they were placed on the endangered species list. A similar price jump occurred with the jaguar (Pantera onca), the beautifull spotted margay cat (Felis tigrina), and the giant fish otter (Pteronura brasilinensis). All of these animals were abundant in the Brazilian jungle where I spent my childhood. Today they are nearly extinct!

Who can blame the “Cabloco” (Brazilian interior employee) if he suddendly gets a chance to earn in a week or a month what he can hardly earn in a lifetime!

In Africa I saw gracious guereza monkeys (Colobus angolensis) being shot. Only 300 specimens of this black and white beauty are known to exist! Soon they will all be erased from the face of the Earth, too. The tough meat it provides is barely enough to fill a small person’s belly. In west and central Africa there are very few food resources left. Since independence, the agricolture systems and plantations of most countries have ceased function! Harldy anybody wants to work in the fields, except for some monocultures such as palm oil, sugar cane and rubber. Severely overpopulate, like the rest of our planet, most families I have visited had over 16 chidren! What should they live off???? Anything eatable goes.

The animals which lived on this Earth for millions of years have become almost extinct since CITES. Before, African wildlife was respected, sold to zoo’s and to animal lovers where they hand a much greater chance of surival than in the wilderness. Recently I saw one of the last Okapis being smuggled out of a Zaire game reserve, fetching $15,000.00 on the world market!

The animals placed on the endangered species list are now being permanently elimated, for food or fun or just because the “new” natives of today don’t know any better than to kill. I found this terrible attitude in South America, Central America, as well as in Africa, New Guinea, Borneo and India.

Animals are killed in their native country because the government of that country has signed the treaty to protect the endangered species from capture, keeping or exporting, but those animals are not protected from being slaughtered!! The extinction of wildlife is programmed!!

I could go on writing for ours about what I have seen during my 37 years of collecting fishes in the jungles of the world. The changes I have seen taken place are simply unbelievable.

During the last summit in Paris, the mighty seven have agreed that to reduce pollution and destruction of nature is one of the most important steps to take in future. But nobody ever talks about the fishes in third world countries (I hate this world)!

Nobody talks about the disappearance of our beloved fishes of which quite a few are extinct in nature (they are only surviving in the hobby and quite a few undescribed species will definitely be extinct before they are discovered).

And this is exactly what I want to talk about during the course of this unique happening of “fishy” people from all over the world, the International Cichlid Conference, organized by the great guys of the American Cichlid Association.

I want to show you the destruction of natural habitats and the definite programmed death of wild freshwater fishes.

I will highlight several issues including the pollution of rivers and lakes. I want to make cichlid enthusiasts aware of some of the wonderful freshwater creatures I have encountered during the almost 500 field trips in the past three and a half decades.

I will show you the natural food chain of tropical fish in Mato Grosso (Brazil), Amazonas (Venezuela) and in Assam (India).

I will take you around the world in 80 minutes (I hope I make it) (Editor: try 4 hours!) to show you the most beautiful places I have been and the few paradises still existing, which may not last for long.

I want to prove to you that cichlids have a heart and feelings and can be loved as pets, like dogs or cats.

The cichlid highlights of my talks (there will be two different presentations) will be my recent trips to west and central African lakes – untouched wilderness. Every body talks about Lake Tanganyika and Lake Malawi and forgets that there are other cichlid heavens, not easy to reach but definitely unique. You might not want to believe what you will see!

I have reduced my collection of 420,000 slides down to 1,200 and hope to give you an impression of the fish (and cichlid) world – past, present and future – from my beginnings up through today. I want to carry you away from your home aquarium into this wonderful world where fish are the closest thing between you and paradise.

After his talk a 1200 slide presentation followed… 

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