Biologist: Post-'Nemo' Demand Threatens Clownfish

Published June 26, 2008

| London Times

Five years after the hit film that endeared the clownfish to audiences the world over, Nemo is becoming increasingly difficult to find.

The lovable tropical species, immortalized in the smash Pixar movie "Finding Nemo," is facing extinction in many parts of the world because of soaring demand from the pet trade, according to one marine biologist.

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 programs cannot cope with demand.

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Dr. Billy Sinclair of the University of Cumbria in northern England, who has been studying clownfish populations for 5 years, says the species should now be listed as endangered.

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, Sinclair says.

"In one coral reef we looked at in Keppel Bay, clownfish populations have dropped from 25 to just six in two years," he says.

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