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BANGGAI RESCUE is a beautiful, must-read book and a project setting out to answer some critical questions about the species' future. Read more

Shelburne, VT Nonfiction
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This project was successfully funded on April 8, 2012.

BANGGAI RESCUE is a beautiful, must-read book and a project setting out to answer some critical questions about the species' future.

Shelburne, VT Nonfiction
Share this project

About this project

Overview of Project

This project will produce an authoritative book in hardcover, softcover, and e-book editions telling the remarkable story of the Banggai Cardinalfish, an alluring coral reef species at the confluence of fishery issues in developing countries, sustainability, and aquaculture.

A star of the aquarium trade, this fish connects native fishing families in a remote region of Indonesia with aquarists worldwide, but overfishing and a mysterious virus now threaten it.

Funding will allow an interdisciplinary team to mount an expedition to the Banggai Islands to document the story and develop new protocols for the mariculture and captive breeding of the Banggai Cardinalfish. The expedition is planned for May 2012, and an experienced publisher has committed to the project, pending funding.

[ Get all the info at the Official Project Website ]

BANGGAI RESCUE — Adventures in Bringing Pterapogon kauderni back from the Brink

One of the most beguiling fishes from the dazzling world of coral reefs, the Banggai Cardinalfish, Pterapogon kauderni, is a darling of the marine aquarium hobby. It is loved for its distinctive silver, black, and white coloration, elaborate finnage, interesting behaviors, and highly unusual breeding habits—the male mouthbroods eggs and fry, releasing perfect miniatures of the adults when they are ready to fend for themselves.

The Banggai Cardinalfish may also have the distinction of becoming the first coral reef fish driven to extinction or local extirpation by collectors in Indonesia supplying the world's marine aquarium trade.

To avert this possibility, an interdisciplinary group has formed to produce a landmark book that they hope will change the ominous current trajectory of this species.

Authors and participants in the BANGGAI RESCUE Project will include marine biologists in the fields of marine fish reproduction, fish diseases, reef ecology, fisheries management, aquarium husbandry, and captive breeding, as well as a seasoned journalist to document everything.

The leading book publisher in the marine aquarium field has agreed to publish the entire story of the Banggai Cardinalfish, along with new field research, new underwater photography, and new protocols for captive culture of the species.

Mounting a research and broodstock collection expedition to the Banggai Islands will be expensive. The publisher will defray the costs by marketing and selling the book in print hardcover, quality softcover, and e-book editions. "This is the collaboration of a small, for-profit entrepreneurial company and a group that sees a grave situation and wants to correct it," says Reef to Rainforest publisher James Lawrence.

The Species

The Banggai Cardinalfish is an excellent aquarium species, strikingly handsome and easy to keep, even for beginners. In smaller aquariums, it is best kept singly or in known pairs, as males will fight each other to the death if closely confined.

Mating pairs may become aggressive to tankmates, especially in smaller community settings. In a spacious community aquarium or a species tank, they are eyecatching and ideal reef fish.

Many reports suggest that wild-caught Banggai Cardinals are prone to dying shortly after being imported. Some observers have blamed a "mystery virus." Additionally, collection pressures on small wild populations may be putting this species at risk. It is listed as "endangered" on the IUCN Red List. Captive-bred specimens are highly recommended. 


The Team

Ret Talbot

Ret Talbot Ret Talbot is an award-winning writer and photojournalist with nearly 20 years of experience covering stories from some of the more remote corners of the globe. From the icy summits of the Andes to the reefs of Papua New Guinea, his assignments have taken him off the beaten track and put his readers face-to-face with stories of adventure, new ideas, and innovative approaches to commonplace issues.

Image: Ret drinking kava with native fishers, on assignment in Fiji.

A graduate of the prestigious writing programs at Wheaton College and the University of St. Andrews, Talbot launched his career balancing work as a mountaineering and fly-fishing guide, freelance writer, and English teacher. His articles appeared in publications such as Outdoor Sports, Rock & Ice, Fly Fisherman, Shallow Water Angler, and American Whitewater. While not in a river, on a glacier, or at the head of a classroom, Talbot traveled extensively, lecturing on his own expeditions to places like North Africa, Alaska, Norway, Ecuador, and Peru.

Since 2007, Talbot has worked as a full-time freelance writer and photographer, penning stories for magazines and working on book-length projects. His most recent work has focused on marine ecosystems and the myriad interactions between humans and those ecosystems. Talbot has spent much of the last year interviewing fishermen, politicians, scientists, environmentalists, and other fisheries stakeholders about the concept of sustainability—from the artisanal fisheries of Pacific Islanders to the heavily politicized commercial fisheries of Hawaii.

Talbot frequently reports on the marine aquarium trade, and his articles can be found in a variety of trade publications. His aquarium-related books include The Complete Idiot's Guide to Saltwater Aquariums (September 2009) and Coral (forthcoming).

He is a senior editor at CORAL Magazine, for which he is currently working on a multi-year series of articles focused on sustainability and marine aquarium fisheries. Reporting from places as disparate as remote island nations across the Indo-Pacific and the massive import and wholesale facilities at Los Angeles International Airport, Talbot's series of articles in CORAL Magazine has established the marine aquarium fishery as a microcosm for the complexities of international trade, socioeconomic development, and environmental conservation.

Talbot will serve as embedded journalist with the interdisciplinary expedition to the Banggai Islands in Indonesia. He will present the history of a unique species and look at the factors that will ensure it has a sustainable future in the aquarium trade.

Ret and his wife, Karen, split their time between Laguna Beach, California, and Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Karen Talbot

Karen Talbot is an award-winning conservation artist known primarily for her lifelike paintings of fishes, birds, and botanicals. Dividing her time between the artist community of Laguna Beach, California, where she exhibits her work, and the mountains of western Wyoming, Talbot takes her inspiration from oceans, streams, canyons, and mountains, where she regularly dives, fishes, and climbs.

Image: Talbot doing underwater sketches on a reef in Hawaii.

An ardent conservationist, she aims to educate through her art, and she donates a percentage of sales to help conserve wildlands and waters that inspire her. Talbot works in a variety of media, including watercolor, pen and ink, and acrylic. Collected by anglers, scientists, and people passionate about the beauty of the natural world, Talbot's artwork can be found worldwide at art shows, galleries, retail stores, restaurants, trade shows, and fishing tournaments, as well as in books, magazines, hotels, and clients’ homes.

"Karen's paintings capture the intricacy of detail of scientific illustration in a manner that is both aesthetically pleasing and instructive. It's not surprising you are just as likely to find her work in educational texts as in the homes of accomplished fly fishermen," wrote a recent reviewer after attending an opening featuring Talbot's paintings of trout.

Talbot's role in the BANGGAI RESCUE Project will be to execute a series of paintings of the Banggai Cardinalfish to help illustrate the book. Her fine art prints, her framed, limited edition giclee prints, and all of the original paintings for the book will be used as rewards for backers of the project.

Matt Pedersen

Image: Matt Pedersen with an invasive Pterois volitans lionfish in the Florida Keys.

Matt Pedersen ranks among North America's most respected aquarists. He was named 2009 Aquarist of the Year by the Marine Aquarium Societies of North America in recognition of his extraordinary efforts to encourage captive breeding of marine species. Though he has worked professionally as an interactive software developer and marketer for the last 15 years, Pedersen’s roots are firmly grounded in the aquarium hobby and industry.

Pedersen’s interest in breeding marine fish stems from his earlier exposure to the freshwater hobby, in which fish breeding is commonplace and a staple activity for aquarists. In this respect the marine aquarium industry is still decades behind the freshwater trade, and the vast majority of marine fish have never been bred in captivity. Rather than repeating the efforts of others or chalking up easy successes to inflate his statistics, Pedersen has always focused on experimental breeding and challenging projects. He is proud to  have spawned 24 species of marine fish, successfully rearing 9 to date. In 2008, Pedersen shocked the marine aquarium world by becoming the first (and he remains the only) person to successfully spawn and rear the extremely difficult-to-keep Harlequin Filefish, Oxymonacanthus longirostris. He is one of the few who have demonstrated the truly successful artificial incubation of Banggai Cardinalfish eggs, a practice that requires further refinement and understanding to this day.

Pedersen is currently a senior editor and associate publisher for CORAL Magazine and its sister publication for freshwater aquarists, AMAZONAS. He has written about marine breeding for a number of international publications and is a regular contributor to the industry’s premier marine aquarium blog, ReefBuilders, where he focuses primarily on breeding-related news and content.

Pedersen helped design and launch the Marine Breeding Initiative (MBI), a non-profit breeding program that promotes marine fish breeding within the hobbyist community while gathering an ever-expanding database of documented breeding efforts from around the globe, and he is still an active MBI council member. The MBI runs the Marine Breeder’s Workshop, a one-of-a-kind national conference for marine fish breeders. As many others have observed, Pedersen has a unique ability to identify the talents and breakthroughs of others, and strives to bring these people and their ideas to the world whenever possible.

Pedersen will write and edit the hands-on breeding sections of Banggai Rescue, using his own experiences and those of others who have successfully reared this species to provide the most effective modern protocols and solutions to the many pitfalls that breeders may encounter.

Matt Pedersen lives and works in Duluth, Minnesota.

James M. Lawrence 

James Lawrence is an award-winning book and magazine publisher with a 30-year career launching successful publications that combine publishing excellence and entrepreneurial creativity, always with an underlying environmental awareness. 

Image: Lawrence in previous dress-shirt-and-tie role as founding editor and publisher of EatingWell Magazine.

James Lawrence is editor and publisher of CORAL, The Reef & Marine Aquarium Magazine, the world’s leading saltwater aquarium periodical. Published since 1999, CORAL has garnered considerable praise for combining hands-on advice on aquarium husbandry with a deep respect and concern for the tropical coral ecosystems that are the source of most marine livestock.

Lawrence, who earned a degree in animal science from Cornell University and a master’s in communications from Syracuse University, spent two years in the Peace Corps working with 32 indigenous farming families in a land reform project in Colombia. After completing his term of service, he immediately entered the world of journalism and publishing. 

Over a period of more than 30 years, he has successfully managed seven successful consumer magazine launches in Canada and the United States, and has won more than 100 national and international awards for writing, editing, art direction, and publishing excellence.

Lawrence founded EatingWell, The Magazine of Food & Health, in a small Vermont town at the forefront of the localvore, organic food, and healthful eating movements. Over a period of 16 years the magazine earned many dozens of national awards, including many prestigious James Beard Awards. The magazine was successfully sold to Meredith Corporation in 2011 for a price that exceeded the initial investment by more than 38-fold.

As adjuncts to the magazines, Lawrence has published more than 150 book titles for national distribution as trade non-fiction books. The subject matter has ranged from country living, gardening, and cooking to reef biology and aquarium keeping. He is credited with publishing more than six titles that have sold 100,000 copies or more.

In 1996 Lawrence started Microcosm, Ltd, in Shelburne, Vermont, to create high-quality titles for marine aquarists. The company has produced a string of highly acclaimed bestsellers in this niche, including the award-winning Conscientious Marine Aquarist and The Marine Aquarium Handbook: Beginner to Breeder.

Lawrence will serve as editor-in-chief and publisher of the various editions of the book, overseeing content creation, design, marketing, and project management.

James Lawrence lives and works in Shelburne, Vermont.


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  • You selected
    Pledge $10 or more

    10 backers

    Your name will be listed on the official project website as a supporter, and you will receive email notifications of updates to the official expedition and book blog. You will also receive a handwritten postcard from the expedition team while they are in Indonesia.

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    Pledge $25 or more

    28 backers

    Along with the above rewards, your name will be included in the book as a supporter. You will also receive a pack of six Banggai cardinalfish notecards created by the team's scientific illustrator.

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    Pledge $50 or more

    22 backers

    In addition to the above rewards, you will receive a copy of the e-book version of the book and a signed copy of CORAL Magazine featuring an article about the expedition.

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    Pledge $75 or more

    6 backers

    In addition to all the rewards listed above, you will also receive your choice of either 1) a matted, limited edition print by expedition scientific illustrator Karen Talbot, or 2) a matted, limited edition photographic print taken by Ret Talbot on the expedition.

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    Pledge $100 or more

    48 backers

    You will receive the rewards listed above, but instead of an ebook, you will receive a softcover copy of the book at the $100 pledge level.

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    Pledge $250 or more

    16 backers

    You will receive all the rewards associated with the $100 pledge level, but instead of a softcover book, you will receive a signed and personally dedicated hardcover copy of the book. In addition, you will receive both a matted, limited edition print by expedition scientific illustrator Karen Talbot AND a matted, limited edition photographic print taken on the expedition by Ret Talbot.

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    Pledge $500 or more

    10 backers

    At this level, in addition to all the rewards associated with the $250 level, you will receive a framed, limited edition giclee print of a Banggai Cardinalfish by the expedition's scientific illustrator, Karen Talbot. Your name will also appear in a special dedication in the front of the book.

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    Pledge $1,000 or more

    0 backers

    You will receive all of the $500 pledge level rewards, but your framed, limited edition giclee will be remarqued with a hand-drawn pencil sketch, making it a more personalized and valuable collector's item. In addition, expedition scientific illustrator Karen Talbot will draw a sketch of a Banggai Cardinalfish in the front of your hardcover edition of the book.

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    Pledge $2,500 or more

    1 backer

    At this level, you will receive an original Karen Talbot Art painting of a Banggai cardinalfish created for this project instead of a remarqued limited edition giclee. You will receive all the rest of the $1000 pledge level rewards.

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    Pledge $5,000 or more

    0 backers

    In addition to all of the rewards associated with the $2500 pledge level, one of the book's co-authors will travel anywhere in the continental United States to do a presentation about the expedition and book to a group of your friends or to an organization of your choosing. You will also receive two softcover copies of the book.

    Estimated delivery:
  • You selected
    Pledge $10,000

    1 backer

    At the highest pledge level, you will receive all the rewards described at the $5000 pledge level, but instead of just one of the co-authors coming to you, both Matt Pedersen and Ret Talbot will travel to you (anywhere in the continental United States) to give a group of your friends or an organization of your choosing a comprehensive presentation about the project!

    Estimated delivery:

Funding period

- (30 days)