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douglam

Finding Nemo and its Effect on Clownfish in the Wild and in the Aquarium Tr

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douglam   

Below is a paper that i wrote for one of my classes in college. After sharing it with John at FAIOS, he suggested that i post it here for others to read.

 

Finding Nemo and its Effect on Clownfish in the Wild and in the Aquarium Trade

 

In 2003, Disney and Pixar released their hit movie, Finding Nemo. The primary goal of the movie was to portray the message that fish are better off left in the wild. Sarah Osterhoudt explains, “Overall, the movie's message seems simple: fish are unhappy trapped in tanks. Yet did kids get the point? As clownfish sell out across the country the answer seems to be: not quite. Children want their own Nemo.” Instead of getting the message across, the movie caused the demand for clownfish in the aquarium trade to rise drastically. The increased demand has caused the wild population of clownfish to shrink, and in some areas clownfish have almost become extinct. The primary reason for the decrease in the clownfish population is the fish have been over collected to keep up with increased sales in the aquarium trade. Hatcheries have begun breeding clownfish in captivity, but they are unable to keep up with demand, and when captive breed fish are not available aquarium shops resort to buying wild caught fish to keep from losing customers.

 

Since the release of Finding Nemo, many studies have been done in an attempt to capture the effects of the movie on the clownfish population. Dr. Sinclair has conducted numerous studies on populations of clownfish around the world and explains, “Studies of clownfish on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef have revealed a dramatic population decline since the release of the movie in 2003. Shoals that used to number dozens of clownfish have dwindled to just a few specimens, leaving them with difficulty breeding” (qtd. in Strange). In some cases the populations have decreased by more than seventy five percent. In one of the studies, Dr. Sinclar discovered that the population of clownfish in Keppel Bay had gone from 25 to only six over the course of two years (Sinclar qtd. in Strange). Based upon these facts it would appear as though Finding Nemo has had a significant impact on the population of clownfish, but in an effort to link the decreases in the population directly to the release of the movie, scientists decided to compare the size of the populations in protected areas to the size of the populations in unprotected areas. Doing so would allow them to rule out a natural cause as the reason for the population decreases. From this research scientists learned that the population density of clownfish in areas closed to fishing and collecting was as much as 25 times higher than in areas where fishing and collecting are allowed (Clownfish decline due to aquarium collecting). The results of this research leave no hope for someone trying to dispute the argument that the population of clownfish was affected immensely by the release of Finding Nemo.

 

The next question that must be answered is, can the decreases in size of the clownfish population be linked to the aquarium trade? When asked the question, how did the release of the movie, Finding Nemo, affect the demand for clownfish and anemone’s, John Reiter, the owner of Fish and Other Ichthy Stuff, responded by saying “My normal cliental where unaffected but there was a substantial increase in demand from those who never had an aquarium before.” This response shows that the decrease in the population is related to the aquarium trade. The fact that normal cliental were unaffected and sales to new clients increased is significant because individuals involved in the marine aquarium hobby are generally older than the audience targeted by Finding Nemo. The movie targeted children who in turn begged their parents to buy them their own Nemo. The response provided by Mr. Reiter supports an observation made by Hannah Strange, an environmental reporter for Times Online. She explains “Parents whose children who fell in love with Nemo at the cinema are seeking out the clownfish in ever greater numbers, leading to over-harvesting of wild specimens because captive breeding programmes (sic) cannot cope with demand.” The parents in Ms. Stranges’ observation are the new customers mentioned by Mr. Reiter, in his response to the question regarding the increased demand. The over-harvesting mentioned by Ms. Strange is also the same overharvesting that has made it increasingly more difficult to find clownfish in the wild as shown by Dr. Sinclars’ research. Other scientists, mentioned in the article by Hannah Strange, believe that the decrease in the clownfish population density is almost entirely because of the way they were portrayed in Finding Nemo as shown by the flowing statement. “The lovable tropical species, immortalised (sic) in the smash Pixar movie Finding Nemo, is facing extinction in many parts of the world because of soaring demand from the pet trade”. That fact that research by Dr. Sinclar and the observations by Mr. Reiter and Ms. Strange can all me connected further proves that decrease in the clownfish population was caused by the release of Finding Nemo.

 

It is also important to look at just how much the demand for clownfish increased. When asked about the change in demand for clownfish, Vince Rado, the Sales manger of Ocean Reefs and Aquariums (ORA) stated, “We did see an increase in demand right after the movie was released. Our False percula Clown (Amphiprion ocellaris) is the "Nemo" fish and was already our best seller at the time. It's hard to say exactly how many fish were purchased directly from the movie interest, but we saw up to a 20% increase in sales at that time.” He also pointed out that ORA breeds twelve other species of clownfish and that no significant increases were seen in the demand for any of the other breeds. Twenty percent may not seem like a very large number but as Dr. Sinclars’ research has shown a twenty percent increase in the demand, for an already popular fish, can be devastating to a wild population. After looking at the information provided by Mr. Rado, and others, the connection between the decrease in the clownfish population and the increased demand for clownfish in the aquarium trade is clear.

Some individuals may try and argue that the decreases in the clownfish population are not a result of the release of Finding Nemo. Since the release of the movie the number captive breed clownfish in the aquarium trade had increased drastically. According to Vince Rado, “There is definitely an increase in the popularity and numbers of captive bred clowns, I think this has had a net effect of reducing the number of wild caught fish.” As you can see from this statement, Vince, along with probably many others, believes that hatcheries have been able to keep up with the increased demand created by Finding Nemo. While it is clear that the hatcheries have helped decrease the effects of the movie, the research by Dr. Sinclar, clearly shows that the hatcheries have not been able to keep up with the change in demand. In an article by Melanie Stiassny, she states, “Of the 1,500 marine fish species that are regularly traded, only about seventy have been successfully bred in captivity. And of those seventy, only a handful are currently raised in quantities viable for commercial use.” The clownfish is definitely one of the fish raised in viable quantities, but the demand is just to great for the hatcheries to keep up.

 

Since the release of Disney and Pixars movie, Finding Nemo, clownfish sales have risen and the wild populations of clownfish has begun to decrease as shown by Dr. Sinclars’ research. His research and the observations of Mr. Reiter and Ms. Strange have helped show the connection between the decreases in the clownfish population to the release of the movie. The goal of Finding Nemo was to send the message that fish should be left in the wild, but it completely backfired. Instead children all over the world became enthralled with the idea of having their very own Nemo, which resulted in approximately a 20 percent increase in the demand for clownfish, as stated by Vince Rado of ORA. After the release of Finding Nemo, hatcheries increased their production to try and keep up with the rising demand. Increased production of captive breed clownfish has definitely helped to lessen the impact of the movie on the wild population, but the hatcheries have not been able to increase production enough to match the increase in demand. Ultimately it is necessary to accept the fact that Finding Nemo was unsuccessful in getting its message across, but that the movie has instead caused the demand for clownfish to increase, in turn leading to the over-harvesting of these fish causing the populations to decrease in size.

 

Works Cited

 

"Clownfish decline due to aquarium collecting | Practical Fishkeeping magazine." Practical Fishkeeping magazine | the UK's best selling fish keeping magazine. 25 Mar. 2009 <http://www.practicalfishkeeping.co....m.php?news=1763>.

 

Osterhoudt, Sarah. "Buying Nemo." E: the Environmental Magazine 15.4 (2004): 10. General Science Full Text. H. W. Wilson. Eckerd College Library, Saint Petersburg, FL. 10 Mar. 2009 <http://vnweb.hwwilsonweb.com/

 

Rado, Vince. "Effect on Clownfish." E-mail interview. 25 Mar. 2009.

 

Reiter, John. “Effect on Clownfish.” E-mail interview.

 

Stiassny, Melanie L. J.. "Saving Nemo." Natural History 113.2 (2004): 50-5. General Science Full Text. H. W. Wilson. Eckerd College Library, Saint Petersburg, FL. 10 Mar. 2009 <http://vnweb.hwwilsonweb.com/.

 

Strange, Hannah. "I can't find Nemo! Pet trade threatens clownfish - Times Online." Times Online | News and Views from The Times and Sunday Times. 25 Mar. 2009 <http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/ne...icle4220496.ece>.

Edited by douglam

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Jakesaw   

There's a growing Clownfish breeding business is my best understanding. If the population goes down - we can easily reintroduce it back into the wild.

 

Aren't they one of the easiest saltwater fish to breed? Based on the price of em - I'd say supply far outweighs demand

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There's a growing Clownfish breeding business is my best understanding. If the population goes down - we can easily reintroduce it back into the wild.

 

Aren't they one of the easiest saltwater fish to breed? Based on the price of em - I'd say supply far outweighs demand

 

The problem would come in with genetic diversity. While they are indeed being successfully tank-bred, I've got a feeling that there is an increased incidence of inbreeding, at least relative to those in the wild. While it may help to re-introduce some of the tank-bred, assuming they would thrive and still retain their natural immunities, I wouldn't think it's a viable replacement plan should the wild population plummet.

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Marteen   

It worked for condors why couldn't it work for clownfish?

 

Japan breeds millions of baby tuna raise them in labs release them into enclosures to grow out and then release them into the wild population.

 

We've rebuilt wild wolf populations this way and countless other species on the verge of extinction. The key is not to let them be endangered in the first place so we don't have to go around repairing damage we could have prevented.

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jeremai   

I'm assuming the Dr. Sinclair wrote the article in Practical Fishkeeping. Do you have an actual working link?

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vangvace   
It worked for condors why couldn't it work for clownfish?

 

Japan breeds millions of baby tuna raise them in labs release them into enclosures to grow out and then release them into the wild population.

 

We've rebuilt wild wolf populations this way and countless other species on the verge of extinction. The key is not to let them be endangered in the first place so we don't have to go around repairing damage we could have prevented.

 

One of the biggest problems preventing it is that it is still cheaper to import wildcaught than pay for captivebreed. As it stands right now, fish returned to the wild would just be recaught in many cases.

 

 

I'm assuming the Dr. Sinclair wrote the article in Practical Fishkeeping. Do you have an actual working link?

 

iirc Practical Fishkeeping is a pay to view article site. :unsure:

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basser1   
One of the biggest problems preventing it is that it is still cheaper to import wildcaught than pay for captivebreed. As it stands right now, fish returned to the wild would just be recaught in many cases.

 

 

Same is true with Banggai Cardinalfish. That's why I'm starting my own breeding program right now. As a matter of fact, my male Banggai is holding a clutch of eggs as I type this. Also on another note, my "Nemos", Picasso clowns have been tank bred by ORA. And my Banggai Cardinals are also tank bred as well.

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vangvace   
Same is true with Banggai Cardinalfish. That's why I'm starting my own breeding program right now. As a matter of fact, my male Banggai is holding a clutch of eggs as I type this. Also on another note, my "Nemos", Picasso clowns have been tank bred by ORA. And my Banggai Cardinals are also tank bred as well.

 

Very true. Banggai's breeding/dwelling habits hurt them as well.

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