A long time ago, when this whole project started, I knew what I’d be in for.   Not everyone would be on board with my methods, my plans, and my decisions.  I knew there’d be criticism and disagreement.
Of course, it probably shouldn’t be a surprise that the sharpest criticisms seem to come from those who either don’t know better, or have their own interests in mind.  Already, I’ve dealt with at least one individual who simply “doesn’t get it”, and I’ve had to accept that all my knowledge and experience, let alone the commonly available information that backs up my own experiences to date, may still be lost on an individual who not only doesn’t get it, but doesn’t have any interest in getting it.
It’s easy to criticize, to be the backseat driver or the armchair quarterback.  Certainly makes you feel good about yourself along the way too.  However, in the end, when it comes to this project, it’s always been my call to make.  Whatever happens, my decisions.  What you make of them is up to you and your informed, or uninformed, opinions.
Still, I’ve never been one to shy away from a good debate (let alone a down and dirty mud slinging match) and I’ll always “take the bait”.  To that end, I’ve been made aware that some anonymous individual (hereafter referred to by the common forum slang terminology of “Troll”) has been posting a highly critical diatribe about myself and The Lightning Project on at least a couple web forums.  It’s my understanding that the critical remarks being levied have been censored (aka. removed) on these forums.  I’ve always been against such censorship, and as such, I’ve decided to post a copy of the criticisms levied and address them, point by point.  Troll, you got your 15 minutes of fame and attention – your wish is granted.
Ironically, this criticism may well be coming from someone I am acquainted with or even know personally based on details contained within some of the  comments being made – to that end, I’ll simply say this to a cowardly critic.  Have the courage to stand behind your words as your own instead of hiding behind an anonymous avatar.  As far as I’m concerned, I’ve already won this debate, given that in the end, it’s my project, my call, and I’m not hiding.  In fact, this project is always open to discussion as long as I have the time to devote to the debate.  And if this is one of my friends trying to get a rise out of me, I again chuckle.  I can’t help but enjoy tearing apart disparaging remarks like these.  Afterall, I don’t argue unless I go into it knowing, and actually factually knowing, I’m right 😉
So here it is, point by point, argument and rebuttle.
Troll – The Lightning Maroon Project aka The ongoing saga of the PNG Lightning Maroon Clownfish Breeding Project of Matt Pedersen appears to be a huge let down for both conservation and the SEASMART Program. He also appears to have failed Blue Zoo, and the marine aquarist world at large.
MP – First, note the title you cite – the ONGOING SAGA.  This story is not complete, it is an ongoing, ever  unfolding story.  You’re welcome to be disappointed that there are not yet any offspring from this fish.  To that end, I’d say that I share that disappointment, but it is not a “failure”.  I don’t feel in any way that I have “let down” conservation, or the now defunct SEASMART program, let alone Blue Zoo Aquatics nor the “marine aquarist world at large”.  You write as if this project was a “sure thing” and a “quick in and out”.  Laughable, but not the first time a presumed non-breeder has drawn such assumptions.  No one knows whether this trait is genetic, whether it will pass on, and anyone who’s been breeding clownfish long enough knows that pairing, and maturity, can take years.
Troll – As Matt continues to fail at pairing the Lightning, he fails conservation as a whole since, instead of reducing depletion of nature’s stocks through captive breeding, his failure does the opposite by leading to greater attempts at natural collection, because of the rarity of the Lightning Maroon Clownfish.
MP – I am curious what “greater attempts at natural collection” you know about?  In other words, where’s the facts?  I ask, because the only known location of any wild Lightning Clownfish is in Papua New Guinea, a nation that at this time has NO active marine ornamental trade that I am aware of, having effectively shut down the SEASMART program in September, 2010, and having not replaced it with any active exports by any other private company or governmental organization.  The very basic premise of your argument is flawed based on the public facts at hand.
That said, beyond the Lightning Maroon, there are plenty of people breeding other White Stripe Maroon Clownfish.  If you want a captive bred Maroon Clown, they are easy enough to find.  It’s not as if I’m somehow stopping those efforts.  And again, your arguments are fueled by an assumption that if or when the Lightning Maroon does mate, it will actually produce something other than normally barred White Stripe Maroons.  Until offspring are reared, we will not know the answer to that question.  For all you know, all that will be produced are normally barred PNG White Stripe Maroon Clownfish.  Nothing terribly special or unique, other than having WSM’s with a known geographic origin.

Troll – It is not hard to imagine how disappointed the good folks at Blue Zoo must be with Matt’s failure, even if they have been too kind to tell him to his face.
MP – Actually given the state of the first collected Lightning Maroon, I am fairing far better than the first go round.  Blue Zoo had many willing buyers and at prices far beyond what I wound up paying.   They were well aware that this project would likely not be a matter of months, but a matter of years, if ever at all.  Such is the nature of dealing with wild clownfish.  I don’t even need to ask Mark Martin how he feels about the decision to send this fish my way because I already know the answer – they’re not disappointed.
Troll – The marine aquarists have been let down big time. It has been close to 1 year perhaps more since Matt received the fish. Yet he is still unsuccessful at pairing the Lightning Maroon.
MP – First, curious how you go the credentials to speak on the behalf of all these people you mentioned.  Second, the only marine aquarists who should feel let down are those who a) don’t know enough about breeding to know better, b) are drawing massive assumptions on the outcome of breeding, and c) are impatient.  Breeding requires patience.
Troll – What are the chances of ever seeing a Matt Pedesen-bred Lightning Maroon Clownfish?
MP – No one can put odds on that because even if it produces viable offspring, no one can say that any of the babies will be “Lightnings”.  Again, a question only asked by someone who is uninformed or impatient.
Troll – If his pairing skills are anything to go by, it will not be before the moon turns blue.
MP – First, we actually had a pretty suitable pairing in the original female that was sent.  Of course, that fish broke down, and the subsequent replacement never made it through the chain of custody to me.  I stood waiting, for almost a year, for another PNG female, using another Maroon female to keep the Lighting Maroon male.  This was a choice made based on my preference for the type and caliber of mate suitable for this fish (another Fisherman’s Island Maroon).
Once we got word that there would be no more fish from PNG in the foreseeable future in January of this year, the battle plan shifted.  Even then, other things had to be right.  This new “pairing” has only been in the works for 2 months.  I am not surprised that it’s being difficult given the nature of the fish I’m working with.
I’ve paired plenty of clowns, plenty of difficult pairings.  There’s a whole slew of maroon clown pairings shown in an earlier post.  Just paired up another Maroon pair today that didn’t work the last time around and got my hopes up…they got along for the first couple hours, but upon returning this evening…shredded male.  That’s how it goes with White Stripe Maroons.  They are mean to their mates.

Troll – So after nearly a year, the Lightning Maroon Project of Matt Pedersen amounts to:
“A lot of talk and drama. Zero Success.”

MP – You’ve certainly helped restore the talk and drama of the Lightning Project today…I was starting to wonder where it had gone…
Troll – Why?  It could be because Matt displays all the hallmarks of a person who is distracted. Is he wearing too many hats? Is he too busy to bother about breeding this super rare Clownfish? Take a look at what he has said, and draw your own conclusions.
Quote: Matt, ” After 7 years in the Orchid hobby I’ve rapidly gone from a single Oncidium and Phalenopsis to over 600 plants in my ever-changing personal collection.
For several years in the past, I managed a tropical fish wholesaler/hatchery and I continue to work full-time in the Web-Design / CD-ROM production business and teach part-time as a college professor as well. But if I could, I’d probably give it all up to spend my life with the orchids! ”
He wants to give it all up, as he said, “But if I could, I’d probably give it all up to spend my life with orchids”. Now we know why the Lightning Maroon Project is such a saga.
MP – First, I’m all too happy to point out that these statements were taking from my now-closed online Orchid business, SlipperOrchid.com These words were also written a decade ago now…maybe even more.  As in 2001 for sure, but maybe even as early as 1999.  Of course, my detractor’s citation of them now implies that I wrote them last week or something.  In fact, going by further statements, it would seem that the detractor thinks that I actually have just started this business and am actively pursuing it right at this given moment!  I hope if nothing else Troll, you’ll be extremely embarrassed by this small, but highly crucial, oversight of fact.  Hell (because I can freely write four letter words on my own website!), you might even have to apologize since it is this misinformation that seems to be one of the main reasons behind your frustration and criticism in the first place!
SlipperOrchid.com grew out of another hobby I maintained concurrently while I worked in the wholesale and hatchery side of the aquarium industry (I even started selling orchids to herp shops for terrariums as an additional product line).  As we all know, life changes, situations change, circumstances change.  The hatchery closed due to a divorce of the owners, I left and got a “real job” that paid well, and the orchids slowly went from a hobby to a side business.
SlippperOrchid.com did great as a side business for about 1.5 years, but it was run out of my house – the same space I lived in.  On a shipment of plants from a new grower in Florida, I received a pesticide resistant strain of “mealy bugs”, which spread throughout my plants.  The ethical thing to do was suspend sales until I had that problem resolved.  As it turns out, my only real options at the time were chemicals that nursuries use to “bomb” a greenhouse…i.e. you go in the greenhouse, full hazmat gear, shut all the doors, and spray everything.  NOT something I could do in my living area, and so I watched hundreds of plants, over $17,000 worth of broodstock, all pass away while I fought to save the most precious and rare.  10 plants survived that epidemic, and still live with me today.  I learned a hard lesson that year when it came to orchids, and I vowed that the next time, I would provide a dedicated space (aka. a greenhouse) to work in.  I still keep these plants and my wife still knows that someday, I very much would appreciate a greenhouse to work in.
The other thing folks should know about my experience with orchids is that I learned a great deal about conservation and ethical breeding from this interest group.  Orchid breeders, both hobbyist and professionals, have over 100 years of experience under their belts.  There are well established rules, guidelines and principals within the community, and to a large extent, the community is self policing and self regulating.  The regulation, the ethics, have grown out of both a need for conservation as well as the concept that working together, and working transparently, helps everyone.  The “rising tide” line of thought.
I hinted at it, but the truth is that many of the orchid species I dealt with are endangered in the wild.  All I specialized in are CITES Appendix 1 species.  While I myself have registered a couple orchid hybrids, my ongoing growth and understanding of the plight of our world has even affected my thoughts on orchids.  If or when I get ’round to breeding orchids again, my goal will be to focus on species production and preservation.  I’ll leave the hybridizing to those who are interested in it.  The truth is that without the foundation of natural species, none of the spectacular hybrids we enjoy could be possible (or recreated were they lost).
Troll – He sounds unfocused.
MP – Or simply a man of many talents and diverse interests and experiences, which actually get me out of a single sphere of subject matter and allow me to look beyond that narrow world for a greater, broader, and deeper understanding of the problems and parallels that exist.  The fact that I’ve worked with Orchids, Cichlids, and most recently Hostas, gives me a much broader view of propagation in general and makes me a better breeder.
I’m still an interactive software developer…have been doing that for almost 14 years now, because that’s the skill that this world values and actually pays well for.  Quoting that I’ve been a part-time instructor implies that I’m stretched thin with two jobs or something.  The reality is that I taught one evening class a week as adjunct faculty and did that for 5 years.  It kept me sharp, kept me learning, and I only gave up teaching when a full time faculty member took over the classes I had designed and taught for half a decade.  That’s the crappy part about “seniority” in the academic system – someone who may have never even worked with the software got to teach it solely because of full-time status.  I loved teaching, and would do it again without a moment’s hesitation.  Seeing my students learn and achieve, doing things they thought they could not do, was tremendously satisfying.
Troll – Or did he simply “screw” everyone who counted on his string of awards to be the best person to successfully breed this rare clown fish.
MP – I chuckle.  From http://www.lightning-maroon-clownfish.com/?paged=13 posted on April 1st.
“It is my opinion that on technical and experiential merits, there were many people far more qualified.” – Matt Pedersen
So clearly another baseless allegation.  Not to mention the fact that I actually recommended many other breeders, NONE of whom were me.  In fact, my hat was never in the ring as far as I was concerned.  It was the folks at Blue Zoo and Pacific Aqua Farms who approached me.
Troll – Matt Pedersen will be a “Star” speaker at the coming MBI workshop,
MP – “Star” is your words, not mine or anyone else’s.  That’s your take on my contributions and involvement to the day’s activities.
Troll – his topic – Breeding Room and Configuration.
MP – A presentation I start off with the disclaimer that I am NO EXPERT, and there is no one single right or wrong way to put this together.
Troll – Can he really be effective and objective;
MP – YES.
Troll – a) He’s a breeder. Will he share valuable or usable “secrets” or will he be marketing his Orchid business or other peripheral businesses
MP – YES, I will share my valuable and usable secrets.  I actually have a history of transparency.  eg. the entire how-to, from start to finish, on being the only person to ever breed and rear the Harlequin Filefish.  Published for the world in the March/April 2009 edition of CORAL magazine, and syndicated to the German Koralle and other European versions as a 2 part article.  I could have just as easily claimed propriety and kept it all to myself.  But that’s not my way, and not the way marine breeding progresses.  I am 100% in favor of open source breeding.  That’s why the Lightning Maroon has an entire website dedicated to the project, and dedicated to transparency, good or bad.
No, I will not be marketing my “Orchid Business” given that, as it says right on the homepage of SlipperOrchid.com:
“2009 came and went and spring is around the corner… I love hearing from you guys! Please continue to send me pictures of the seedlings you’ve bloomed out – I love seeing the fruits of my breeding efforts!  It’s been years since I’ve offered any orchids for sale, but I do hope to one day get the greenhouse up and growing. With my recent work in another longstanding hobby of mine (the aquarium hobby), I’ve come to the realization that while hybrids are wonderful, I can all but guarantee I’ll focus my future efforts pretty much on species. Conservation first and foremost.”
In other words, let me be blunt.  How stupid do you think I am that I’d go to a Marine Breeding Conference for an organization that I sit on the council for and helped create, to promote a business that has been shuttered since the early 2000’s?!  Did you ever, for one moment, stop to think about the idiocy of the accusations you were making?
Troll – b) Can a person that has so much difficulties paring a Maroon really teach you more than you already know?
MP – Actually I’ve paired up multiple pairs of Maroons, and the GSM pair continues to spawn but there’s another hobbyist in town breeding those so I’m not about to overproduce them.  The Lightning has been a conundrum for many breeders for the past year given that there’s a 25/75 split between those that felt the fish was already a female when collected vs. those who believed it to be male.
That said, I’ve never put myself out there as an “expert”.  The most candid point of view is this – if you look around the room and you have more experience than most, and know more than most, that makes you the defacto “expert” in the group.  But anyone actually claiming to be an “expert” probably should be questioned.   As much as I can inform other breeders, they too can inform me.  With so much of marine breeding an unknown at this point, no one can really claim to be “the definitive expert”.
Troll – The award winning aquarist seems to know little or nothing about pairing maroon Clownfish.  I wonder, how difficult is it to pair Clownfish, and more specifically maroons. Are there true experts out there who can help this Lightning Maroon Project. Clearly, Matt Pedersen needs your help.
MP – Actually I know just about as much as anyone else out there does, and much if not all of what I know has been posted here in other blog entries.  Perhaps before you start making allegations you should check your facts and do your homework…i.e. READ a bit.
What I find humorous here is that you, my “detractor”, doesn’t even know how difficult it is to pair ANY clownfish (as acknowledged with the remark “how difficult is it to pair Cownfish[?]”), let alone maroons, let alone white stripe maroons.  To my detractor, if you don’t know that, then you probably also don’t have any experience or book knowledge regarding the maturity times of various clownfish species.  I happen to know that maturity in Maroons can quite easily take years in a pair setting.  It CAN happen quickly, but can doesn’t equate to will.
I also happen to know that White Stripes are far more aggressive than Gold Stripes, and that while gold stripes can be pretty reliably and easily paired, the same cannot necessarily be said for White Stripes.  In fact, the reason you see so many more captive bred Gold Stripe Maroons is directly related to these same traits – easier to pair, less aggressive fish = easier to breed and more desired by stores and hobbyists.
Troll – There’s got to be many of you out there who have successfully paired maroons. Please reach out and help the poor man. Don’t worry, you cannot do worse than what he has done, awards or no awards.
I say to **** with offending him. Frankly its a bloody joke my 16 year old nephew has a pair of gold stripe maroons he paired 6 weeks ago. I said to him “Kevin, very nice. So why the sad face?” His reply, “I’m probably not going to get my CB lightning Maroon by my 18th birthday” I replied ” yes you are he’s an award winning breeder” Kevin replied ” mine is paired his is screwed”
MP – I’ll simply defer to my many earlier statements about GSM’s being fundamentally different.  Kevin’s are paired…mine are breeding.  Big flippin’ deal.  And how does your 16 year old nephew come to the conclusion that the Lightning Maroon “is screwed”?!  Oh, that’s right, because he’s paired one pair of clownfish?  I can’t figure out if it’s more disappointing that you bring up something your 16 year old nephew may have said, or if I actually have to question the expertise and credibility of someone who’s entire marine and breeding experience may not match what I’d done by his age, let alone all that I’ve seen, done and accomplished since then.  I guess what I’m saying…bad form for using your 16 year old nephew to make your own arguments, let alone to imply that what he says adds any ounce of credibility to your accusations when in reality these remarks are opinions at best, whether valid or otherwise.
Troll – There is no doubt, Matt Pedersen is award winning. (Matt Pedersen is credited with starting MOFIB (Marine Ornamental Fish & Invertebrate Breeder’s Association) and writing for multiple publications including Coral, Koralle, Practical Fish Keeping, Reef Hobbyist Magazine and Reef Builders. Matt has spoken at numerous aquarium clubs and events from coast to coast. He currently sits on the MBI (Marine Breeding Initiative) Council, a project dedicated to bringing the concept of a unified Marine Breeder’s Award Program to hobbyist organizations across the country and around the globe. In 2009, Matt was awarded “Aquarist of the Year” honors by both IMAC West and MASNA in recognition of his accomplishments and contributions to the marine aquarium hobby. Last updated October, 2010. Information source, Habitat Marine)
MP – It’s actually called “Marine Habitat”…
Troll – Well done! Matt. Now please, go and show us that you are worth the awards. Don’t rest on your laurels. Unless you want to surrender this fish over to someone else who can actually get the job done? Someone who is not prancing around the seminar circuit to get his ego inflated.
MP – Interesting challenge, given that the awards were given on past accomplishments, not future hopes.  I chuckle about this notion of “prancing around the seminar circuit” given that I truly limit my speaking engagements so that they do not take me away too often nor impact my family too much.   I love when people drag out the ‘ole ego accusation when they have nothing else left to criticize.
It’s interesting that you suggest I just hand over the fish to someone else who can “get the job done” given that based on the requirements set forth in the project, and the list of priorities, no one else has the materials to get the job done right.  Yes, I said “right”, because it was MY approach to the project that had folks asking me to take this fish on in the first place.  So to circle all the way back to the start, what you are proposing is that I abandon the principals and priorities I set forth for this project.  Those same principals that I discussed with Blue Zoo and others.  Instead, it is solely about getting more Lightning Maroons out there by whatever means necessary, as quickly as possible.
In reality, to cave in and take this approach would be the true let down.  It would be a breeding program motivated by greed, fame, and ego.  It would be abandoning the principals and goals that caused me to be the one they went with in the first place.
So no, I’m sticking to my plan, doing it my way.  If I have to justify the awards and recognition bestowed up on me, let that justification be that I did not cave in.  Let it be that I know enough to not be discouraged by the uninformed criticism of an anonymous  detractor who only cares to make someone else look bad to others who don’t know him.  Let that justification be that I know I’m approaching this project the best route possible based on the goals I set forth, and that it’s all been done with full transparency.  Let that justification be the dead female PNG maroon, the Allardis I scorched with an incorrect formalin dosage, or the time the Lightning escaped it’s protective net and got beat up by a trio of Centropyge argi.  And let that justification be that I shared these mistakes and failures with all with the world, and simply kept trucking.  Because afterall, I went into this project knowing the following (again, from April 1st):
“…if things do not go well, my legacy in the aquarium hobby could go from being “the guy who was first to captive breed Harlequin Filefish” to “the guy who killed the Lightning Maroon”.” – Matt Pedersen, April 1st, 2010.
Troll – Word on the ground is that a breeder named Linda Close can get the pairing done. She seems to have a track record of spawning pairs and has given advice on The Hudson Valley Reef Keeper with over 3000 post and also sits on the board…of MASNA.(Vendor Relations)
MP – Linda and I are friends.  I believe I’ve known Linda since before she was ever breeding anything.   Linda, I’d love to hear what you have to say about your hat being throw into the ring on your behalf.
Troll – Aquarists, your comments, advice, and personal experience in pairing Maroon clowns will be appreciated. Help Matt Pedersen pair the Lightning Maroon.  Post your comments, share you experience and most of all be, be Open. Matt Pedersen won’t bite you.  He needs all the help he can get.
MP – Other than the condescending tone, I’ve always welcomed commentary and ideas from other experienced breeders.
I’ll be thoroughly surprised if there is a response, but frankly if there is, I suspect it will be more of the same.  If that’s the case, I will say now I’m not going to permit it to show up on the site.  You had your say, I had mine.  You had your opportunity to libel me, and I had my opportunity to demonstrate just how fundamentally baseless your accusations of “screwing people over” actually are, given that your biggest gripe is based on a timeline error of roughly a decade.
Pretty sure I made my point the first time ’round and left little room for further discussion on the matter.   You got the courtesy of my time and a response.  I suggest you crawl back under that rock or bridge and worry about your own aquariums and let the Lightning Maroon breeding be the worry of the guy who actually has the fish!  Criticism, without any suggestions for change or improvement, is entirely self serving and useless…you add nothing to the effort except some drama and diversion.  Thanks for that.
(BTW, obviously other folks already caught this and I’m glad to see that people who bought into this crap were in the nonexistent minority!  Thanks for the support guys!)
http://www.manhattanreefs.com/forum/general-discussion/99556-lightning-project-matt-pedersen-appointed-breeder.html
http://www.3reef.com/forums/general-reef-topics/lightning-project-matt-pedersen-appointed-breeder-111603.html