A Million Kisses to Save Nemo

We all know the heart-warming tale of Finding Nemo, but clown fish populations on coral reefs have been declining since the film’s release, due to the popularity of a ‘Nemo’ in household aquariums.

Researchers from Flinders University and University of Queensland have teamed up in an effort to ensure Nemo can be found exactly where he should be – in his sea anemone home on coral reefs.

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The Saving Nemo Conservation Fund aims to provide education, awareness and captive breeding programs to protect popular marine ornamental species that are often captured on reefs for sale in pet shops.

Flinders University marine biologist and Saving Nemo co-founder Anita Nedosyko said the marine fish aquarium trade was a major cause of coral reef fish decline.

‘What most people don’t realise is that about 95 per cent of marine fish found in aquarium shops come from the wild,’ she said.

‘Right now with the Great Barrier Reef is recovering from one of the worst bleaching events this summer, they don’t need the added pressure of being plucked off the reef.’

Exports of marine ornamentals has grown into a major global enterprise, and high profile exposure of coral reef species through movies such as Finding Nemo has influenced a new generation of aquarium hobbyists.

Fellow Saving Nemo co-founder Associate Professor Karen Burke da Silva says said people took the wrong message from the film.

‘Instead of understanding the film’s conservation message of keeping Nemo in the ocean where he belongs with his friends and family, people fell in love with the adorable characters and wanted to keep them as pets.’

Clownfish researchers are concerned that the release of the sequel Finding Dory in June 2016, will result in a resurgence of popularity for marine ornamental species, targeting species such as Dory, a Blue Tang.

The organisation promotes having clownfish pets as they are fascinating and charismatic animals but are encouraging people to choose sustainable nursery bred rather than wild caught fish. On the other hand, Blue Tangs are not yet able to be bred in captivity so they are all taken from the wild. Anita says “Until they do we are urging people to reconsider them as pets”.

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The team has started an ambitious campaign to raise a million fish kisses on social media with the hashtag #fishkiss4nemo- IFL Science, Washington Post and New York Post are just a few who have already spread the campaign globally.

They hope to capture the attention of Ellen DeGeneres, who voices the loveable yet forgetful Dory in Finding Nemo and the upcoming sequel, Finding Dory, and get her to be their ambassador for coral reef conservation.

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Saving Nemo has run a clownfish breeding program at Flinders University for the past five years, selling sustainable clownfish to local aquariums.

‘Clownfish are extremely easy to breed and females lay many eggs at a time so there is really no reason to collect them from the wild. Nursery-bred fish are also far happier and healthier in tanks than wild-caught fish,’ said Associate Professor Karen Burke da Silva also co-founder of Saving Nemo.

You can give a #fishkiss4nemo on social media or go to www.savingnemo.org to get involved with the campaign.

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Written by Associate professor Karen Burke Da Silva

Contact: Karen.burkedasilva@flinders.edu.au, 08 82012010