I feel a great emotion and sadness when I write these words. Jean Claude Nourissat has passed away on Sunday November 10 of 2003, being 62, just after coming back from a trip to Madagascar where he had been doing what he loved the most, collecting cichlids in their natural habitat and constantly bringing to the hobby new and exciting never before seen species.
I first met Jean Claude in March, 1983, when a common friend of ours, Antonio Hernandez Rolón from México city, invited me to join them in a collecting trip in southern México. Jean Claude kindly accepted me in and I was on my way to Tabasco. After I left the plane and met the small party led by Jean Claude, I was impressed by the charisma of this man, and it was soon that I was surprised by his seemingly unlimited energy and passion. I had all my life been fascinated by fish and had never yet found somebody who reflected a passion similar to mine, but there was this man, with such a genuine love for cichlids that over the years I have just seen in a group of people I could count with one hand. I have to say that even in my early twenties I wasn't ready for Jean Claude's unlimited energy, but he made me enjoy cichlid collecting in such a way that I have never ceased since then, doing it every time I can.
Over the years I followed Jean Claude's achievements and his fascinating explorations to Central America and then Madagascar, together with his dear friend Patrick de Rham, and I was surprised by the many new species that they would discover for science and hobby. They would unselfishly distribute the fish to anybody interested in them. It is not coincidence that two beautiful cichlid species have been named after him, one central American and one Madagascan; Astatheros nourissati and Paretroplus nourissati. Over many years I just had sparing correspondence with Jean Claude.
In 1999, I was very excited when Jean Claude and Patrick proposed that the French Cichlid Association invite me to Vichy for their 20th anniversary convention as one of their guest speakers. After getting to Lausanne as Patrick's guest, we drove to Toulon to visit Jean Claude. There he was at the door when we arrived, with his big smile and telling me he was happy to see me again after so long.
I could clearly see his energy had not slowed down a bit over the passed 16 years. His fishroom (Fish house actually) is by far the most impressive I have ever seen. Jean Claude, a dentist, was now retired and invested his full energy into his family, his aquarium setting, his loved duck collection, the French Cichlid Association and a grape yard. Jean Claude's setups are out this world. He has what I think is the best collection of Central American and Madagascar cichlids there is, and I am including here all the public aquariums that I know. Some of the species that he had collected and kept at that time, like Ptychocromoides katria, weren't available anywhere else. Several aquarium ranging 3,000 gallons and bigger occupy his fish room.
But it was Jean Claude with his big charm that made you feel so welcome and excited about his fish. He was the center of all this and talking to him was the real joy be in his incredible setup. Nicole his wife was a most wonderful hostess and made us feel at home. Jean Claude insisted we had to stay for the night and so we did. I could not leave without some of the original discovered collection of Cryptoheros nanoluteus, which he generously offered to me.
Over the convention in Vichy, it was clear for me that besides being the long time president, Jean Claude was the soul of the French Cichlid Association, he was widely respected and he was the crusader for the event. The French Cichlid Association is a very big event, much like the American Cichlid Association's annual convention. During the congress Jean Claude and Patrick de Rham made the attendees enjoy a humorous and educational representation of how cichlids breed, disguising themselves and acting like a pair of Thorichthys meeki and Metriaclima saulosi. There, Jean Claude showed that he was a person that could communicate to the rest and make them laugh.
Jean Claude has marked a big milestone for the cichlid hobby. One of his many legacies is the wonderful book on Madagascar cichlids that he wrote in the company of Patrick de Rham. I can confidently say that many of us will remember him for the rest of our lives and that many will come to know of him and his great contributions to this great worldwide fraternity that we are in the aquarium hobby. My deepest sympathies to his dear wife Nicole and family, the cichlid world and the French Cichlid Association. I am sure if there is a heaven Jean Claude will be looking after his beloved cichlids from there.