Founder of Mexican Fish Ark dies in UK
John and Susy Pint


Ivan Dibble - Photo courtesy of Don KenwoodIvan Dibble, the Englishman who saved many of Mexico’s rare fish from extinction, passed away on Christmas Day, 2009, seated at his computer, working on a new project to protect another endangered species in Jalisco.
In 1995, Dibble, a fish hobbyist all his life, learned that several fish which occur only in Mexico (Goodeids, which bear their young alive) had gone extinct in their native habitat, the Teuchitlán River. Dibble visited the river, which is located 40 kilometers west of Guadalajara, at the foot of the Guachimontones archeological site and made a promise to Mexican ichthyologist Arcadio Valdes that “be it ever so little, I would do all that I could for the species of that river.”

Fish Ark Mexico

Dibble had, for years, been breeding rare species of Mexican fish in England and distributing them to fish fanciers worldwide...

...In May of 1997, he brought two species, Skiffia francesae and Zoogoneticus tequila, now extinct in their native habitats, to a fish lab at the University of Morelia in Michoacán and, with the staff, started Fish Ark Mexico. He then began to collect money from fish hobbyists in order to supply the Fish Ark with the equipment and money needed to keep operating.

The Tequila splitfin or Goodeid, originally from the Teuchitlan River


The Man Who Loved Mexican Fish

Upon learning of the death of Dibble, Dr. Arcadio Valdes said:
“At the last Livebearers’ Symposium, I was asked to present Ivan for his talk. I introduced him as ‘a man driven, always in command, always stubborn, always concerned about the future of livebearers, always worried about his Goodeids and therefore very hard and difficult to understand, but at the same time a very warm and caring person.’ All of this was needed to lead people and to convince them about the conservation of those then unknown fish and Ivan had those qualities. No one else has ever been more seriously concerned about the conservation of Mexican fish and no one has done more than Ivan Dibble.”


Ivan Dibble and the Air Raid

When we contacted Dibble’s sister Yvonne Doyle, she was brought to tears to learn that people in far-off Mexico respected and loved her brother. “Fish were Ivan’s life,” she then commented. “I would like to share with you an anecdote told to me by my mother,” she went on. “This incident took place during the war, right in the middle of an air raid. On top of that, there was a thunderstorm in progress at the very same time. In all that noise and confusion, my mother discovered that little Ivan had gone missing. He couldn’t have been more than five or six at the time. Of course, my mother was distraught and to make matters worse, my father was far away, fighting in the war. Well, my mother and our relatives and friends searched everywhere for my brother and finally found Ivan, oblivious to everything, fishing under a bridge.”

Dibble’s interest in fish never wavered and in the 1970’s he became particularly interested in viviparous fish, which he began to breed and to distribute to collectors everywhere.


The Ameca Project is born

In recent years, Ivan Dibble learned that Ameca splendens, a particularly beautiful livebearing fish thought to have gone extinct, had been found in spring-fed pools at restaurants on Lake La Vega. Ever a man of action, even though he could hardly walk, Ivan phoned us from England, suggesting we look for a small pool somewhere in the vicinity of the Teuchitlán River where Ameca splendens (also known as the Butterfly Goodeid) could be bred in its native environment, but safe from pollution and introduced species (such as tilapia, an African fish that is replacing Mexican species all over the country).

With the help of UAG biologist José Luis Zavala, we searched the Teuchitlán River from where it bubbles out of the ground to where it pours into badly polluted Lake La Vega and we succeeded in finding a few places where the Butterfly Goodeid still survives.

It was, however, Teuchitlán President Enrique Meza who led us to the perfect place for a protected breeding pool, a warm spring rising inside the river, at its edge. Thus was born the Ameca Project, which was orphaned on Christmas Day when Dibble, 72 years old, finally succumbed to illnesses which had been plaguing him. We are sure, however, that he will long be remembered in Mexico. For more on Ivan Dibble’s projects, see .


If you would like to assist or donate to the Ameca Project, contact the Pints ( To donate to Fish Ark Mexico, contact Don Kenwood ( .