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More than 90% of all marine species that end up in aquariums and pet stores are caught in the wild. According to scientists, some 45 countries have been supplied with more than 30 million individuals. More than 60% of them are caught in Indonesian and Philippine waters, and the United States is the largest importer of ornamental species. It represents 80% of global trade, followed by Europe and Japan.
Among the multitude of species that make up this business is the clownfish Amphiprion ocellaris, also known as Nemo, after starring in the film that Disney-Pixar released in 2003. To the loss of habitat due to global warming, which causes a decline in coral reefs, the uncontrolled catches of this fish join. Every year more than a million specimens of the clownfish family are caught for the aquarium trade.
“Reef fish populations are already struggling due to rising sea temperatures and ocean acidification caused by global warming. The last thing they need is to be uprooted from their natural home, "denounces Carmen da Silva, a researcher at the University of Queensland (Australia) and coordinator of the Saving Nemo Conservation Fund project in this city.
The non-profit organization's team proposes to supply stores with captive-bred fish to protect wild specimens, educate consumers and develop research focused on conservation. The group aims to ensure that Nemo is exactly where it belongs: in sea anemones on coral reefs.
“Clownfish species are very easy to breed in captivity and the females lay a lot of eggs at one time, so there really is no reason to keep catching them in the wild. Furthermore, these captive-bred specimens are better in aquariums than those caught in reefs, ”says Karen Burke da Silva, a project member and scientist at Flinders University in South Australia.
For five years, the team has been breeding 7 species of the 28 that exist of clownfish to sell 'sustainable' fish to local aquariums.
The Danger Dory Faces
However, scientists are now concerned about the situation of the regal or blue surgeonfish (Paracanthurus hepatus), indigo blue and up to 31 centimeters in length, embodied by the character of Dory that stars in the sequel Finding Dory. The premiere in Spain will be on June 22.
"People fell in love with the adorable characters from the first movie and wanted to keep them as pets in their homes, instead of heeding the conservation message: leave Nemo where he belongs, the ocean," says Burke for whom the movie could spark a resurgence of ornamental species, this time from Dory, stolen from the reefs.
This species, in addition to the natural threats it faces such as the severe fragmentation of its habitat, was in 2002 the eighth most commercialized species in the world, according to the Global Marine Aquarium Database.
Although the Red List of Threatened Species of the International Union for Conservation of Nature has a ‘least concern’, between 1997 and 2002, before the premiere of the first film, 74,557 individuals had already been captured. Now an estimated 400,000 regal surgeonfish are caught each year.
In addition, unlike Nemo, fish like Dory take a long time - about two years - to reach sexual maturity and at present their breeding in captivity is not possible, they announce from the Saving Nemo Conservation Fund. "Therefore, if you see a regal surgeonfish in an aquarium or in a store, it is that it has been captured from its home in the wild," they conclude from the foundation. Ecoportal.net