NANFA-- RE: The Only Cichlid Indigenous to Mexico and the U.S.

Leo Arieux (
Sat, 11 Aug 2001 13:40:18 -0500 (CDT)

Several years ago, I was made aware of the existence of "a fish" living
and competing in Lake Pontchartrain (Louisiana) with our native fish. A
close friend of mine brought six small fish between 3/8" to 1/2" for me
to identify. I remarked to him that they were cichlids of a type I was
unfamiliar with. Not having any good fish books capable of making a
positive identification, I then placed them in my garden pond.

We then returned to the drainage canal where he caught them in a cast
net. A man was fishing with a cane pole, a cork
and using crickets as bait. He had a white five gallon plastic bucket
that he had placed his "catch" in. There were 19 of the unknown
cichlids, three ordinary sunfish and two goggle-eyed perch. He claimed
that most of the fish he had been catching in the past couple of years
were the unidentified cichlids and they were quite tasty.

The realization and concern that a serious problem was developing in the
lake began to take shape in my mind. Cichlids give their fry a distinct
advantage by protecting them to a size where they can better survive
than our native species do. I was puzzled about this problem.

A little over one year later I discovered that I could make a
non-indigenous species report via the internet. I did so and was
contacted by a doctor with the same agency of the government in
Gainesville, Florida. She referred me to Dr. Robert Cashner, the Dean
of the Graduate School at the University of New Orleans. We made
arrangements for the Dr. his wife and daughter to come to my house and
see the fish. When he saw the fish, he identified them as Cichlasoma
cynaguttatum or Hericthys cynaguttatum AKA the Rio Grande perch a very
prolific breeder.

I brought to his attention that there was about six generations of
various sizes in my pond and the large breeding pair had just hatched a
new group of fry and were protecting them from their siblings.

We then went down to the Lake Villa pumping station canal where we
verified that the fish had constructed breeding nests (depressions in
the gravel/sand) approximately every eight to ten feet along the
shoreline of the canal. Dr. Cashner became even more concerned and said
that he would have to study this further.

Dr. Cashner and some graduate students did an extensive field study
confirming our fears. The fish were located all along a 35 mile stretch
of Lake Pontchartrain shoreline and canals. This information was given
to the Louisiana Fish and Wildlife Service. Dr. Cashner wrote a paper
on this co-authored by the Dr. with the governmental service in Florida.
This was presented at a symposium in North Carolina two years later.

The fish and wildlife people rotononed (poisoned) the canal and drainage
canals which led into Lake Pontchartrain but as the old saying goes they
were closing the barn door after the horses had gotten out. To my
knowledge, C. cynaguttatum is still living and breeding on the edges of
Lake Pontchartrain today.


Laissez Les Bon Temps Rouler'

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