'Finding Nemo' pets harm ocean ecology
In Disney's version, the brightly coloured fish escape their aquarium and return to the ocean where they live happily ever after. But in reality, the liberated cast of
Finding Nemo could threaten the very survival of some of the most exotic marine life in America.
In Disney's version, the brightly coloured fish escape their aquarium and return to the ocean where they live happily ever after. But in reality, the liberated cast of Finding Nemo could threaten the very survival of some of the most exotic marine life in America.
Tropical fish are being returned to the "wrong" ocean by their owners.
A team at the Florida Keys Marine Sanctuary has discovered a brace of unusual fish that would never normally be found there, including a pair of orbicular batfish, more commonly seen in the Pacific - but popular among aquarium owners. Since 2000 there has been a growing number of sightings by divers and fishermen of the predatory, and highly poisonous, lionfish, along the eastern seaboard from North Carolina to New York.
The US Geological Survey (USGS) has a growing database of sightings and captures of "non-indigenous fish". Off Florida alone, it includes the raccoon butterfly fish, several varieties of the tang and angel fish, and the orangespine unicorn fish. All are popular aquarium choices for their colour and variety.
"It's a Finding Nemo story," Brice Semmens, a marine biologist at the University of Washington in Seattle, told New Scientist magazine.
"Individuals are releasing their pet fish with the best of intentions, but in the wrong ocean. It is a really bad idea." The incoming fish can drastically alter the ecological balance of an area. The lionfish, for example, preys on a range of fish, shrimps and crabs but the Atlantic species have not evolved any strategy against it. "Introduction of the lionfish is an ecological quantum leap for local fishes that have no experience dealing with this voracious predator," said Dr Semmens.
He carried out research to link aquariums with the foreign species because others had blamed their presence on ships emptying their ballast tanks near harbours. He compared statistics of imports to the United States of tropical marine fish with sightings collected by the Reef Environmental Education Foundation (Reef) from 1993 to 2000.
His research showed that the more a species was imported, the greater the likelihood of sightings off the coast; and ships were ruled out because there was no overlap between the natural homes of the fish recorded and shipping routes.
Walter Courtenay, a research fishery biologist with the USGS, suggested that the rise in the number of lionfish off the Florida coast might be due to captains of dive boats introducing them to attract customers - who would have seen the fish in aquariums and on TV, and so be disappointed not to see them when doing their own dive. However, the problem is that the lionfish could be impossible to eradicate once it is established.
The ugliest animals on earth: Blobfish, axolotl and proboscis monkey battle it out to be named least attractive beast
Carbon dioxide accumulates as seas and forests struggle to absorb
Campaigners lobby Duchess of Cornwall to persuade her son-in-law to cease Knebworth solar farm
Sea levels rising too fast for Thames Barrier
The 10 best folding bikes
- 1 Scottish independence: Ireland since 1919 is a lesson for Scotland in what a Yes vote means
- 2 Thailand deaths: Pair's bloodied bodies found naked on Koh Tao beach
- 3 Lego breaks out of the toy box and heads for the gallery
- 4 Julian Assange and Edward Snowden join piracy mogul Kim Dotcom’s political campaign in New Zealand
- 5 Daniele Watts: Django Unchained actress detained by Los Angeles police after being mistaken for a prostitute
Daniele Watts: Django Unchained actress detained by Los Angeles police after being mistaken for a prostitute
The political class is doing what Hitler couldn’t – destroying Britain
Scottish independence: Nationalist leader Jim Sillars threatens pro-union companies with 'day of reckoning' after independence
Scottish independence: Yes campaign feels the heat as Alex Salmond's NHS claims come under furious attack
£23m Birmingham cycle scheme is attacked by Tory councillor for not catering to the elderly
Salmond accused of laughing off national debt with ‘what are they going to do: invade?’ joke
£45000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsf...
£25000 - £30000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client are cur...
£23500 - £40000 per annum: Randstad Education Plymouth: Randstad Education Ltd...
£60000 - £80000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Corporate Marketing Communications M...