Finding Nemo was one of those unforgettable Disney classics that won numerous accolades including the 2003 Best Animated Film Academy Award. This film was not only striking in terms of the impeccable graphical detail with which it was produced, but it also resonated with several important messages which society tries to transmit to a younger generation.
As I have already mentioned in a previous post concerning crabs and The Little Mermaid, Disney is renowned for the humanization of animals in its films. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as it conveys a sound message to children that these creatures merit respect and should be treated well.
However, even though Finding Nemo sought to educate the public about the consequences of harvesting and purchasing fish for decorative aquaria (the whole point of this film was to make the viewer feel ‘sad’ that Marlin the clownfish lost his son Nemo to this fate), around 99% of the World seemingly missed the plot.
After Finding Nemo became big, there was an unprecedented increasing in Ocellaris Clownfish (Amphiprion ocellaris) trade for aquaria, which had a marked effect on the wildlife of the Vanuatu archipelago in the South Pacific (the Republic of Vanuatu, located around 1750 km off the eastern coast of Australia).
On the 20th of November 2003, The Guardian Newspaper reported:
“Over the past year, about 200,000 fish and other marine creatures have been exported from the country, and local tour firms are warning that the reefs will be at risk if the tropical fish trade is not regulated”
Apart from the issues associated with the collection of wild fish species, there was also considerable damage to US marine systems when people started releasing these exotic fish (since many people “logically” get bored of their pets after a couple of months) into the sea.
In 2004, a team at the Florida Keys Marine Sanctuary had a string of unusual encounters with species of fish that would not normally be found there, such as a pair of orbicular batfish which are generally observed in the Pacific – but popular among aquarium owners. Reports of the predatory and highly poisonous lionfish alongside the eastern US seaboard have been made by divers and fishermen.
With the announcement of this sequel, which will revolve around Ellen DeGeneres’ character Dory – a Regal Blue Tang (Paracanthurus hepatus), I hope that people will learn from past mistakes. While this species is listed as of ‘Least Concern’ by the IUCN Redlist, the impacts on associated coral reef systems is less obvious. One has to remember that coral reefs have changed dramatically since the time the first Finding Nemo film came out.
Ten years of research on this fragile ecosystem is allowing scientist to mitigate the impacts of climate change. But, if we start harvesting such species again so that a couple of ignorant parents can amuse their children, then we really need to redress the whole scope of these films. I sincerely hope that this time round, all associated film personnel will voice some form of concern to prevent this situation from happening again.
And for the parents, please buy your children a budgey or a hamster, and teach them how to take care of them and be responsible.