The animated film Finding Nemo made a big splash at the box office when it was released in 2003. Since then, our planet’s average temperatures have continued to increase, oceans have become acidic, and the adorable clownfish on which the movie was based on is nearing extinction.
It’s possible that Finding Nemo may become a work of fiction for more reasons than one.
As NOAA reports, increases in average surface temperatures due to carbon emissions caused by humans is causing ocean waters to acidify and in turn deplete coral reefs. Carbon dioxide absorbed into the ocean from the atmosphere has already begun to reduce calcification rates in reef-building and reef-associated organisms through ocean acidification.
Meanwhile, mass coral bleaching events and infectious disease outbreaks are becoming more frequent.
Clownfish rely on coral reefs for their survival, and the anemones those reefs support for reproduction. As the Global Education Project reports, the anenome protects the clownfish, and the fish’s swimming aerates the water around the anenome, but finding an anemone home is already a difficult and time consuming process for the clownfish, involving a special dance followed by covering themselves with mucus which ensures immunity against the toxicity of a target anemone. According to Earth.org, some choose to live exclusively in a single species of anemone, which makes things even harder for the fish.
A decline in reef populations, and the anemone that can grow there, would mean the same for the clownfish.
Though the clownfish isn’t currently endangered, that possibility isn’t far off if global warming continues at the current rate.
“Clownfish (as with many other fish species) are known to only reproduce within a very small temperature range. It follows, therefore, that an increase in temperature could discourage clownfish from breeding,” reports the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species report, “Species and climate change: More than just the Polar Bear.” “High temperatures have also been shown to cause eggs to perish. Either of these outcomes, or a combination of the two, could have disastrous consequences for clownfish. In summary, a combination of habitat loss, disruption of their olfactory senses and direct effects to their physiology makes clownfish particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change.”
In order to ward off further habitat destruction we need to preemptively protect the clownfish by placing it on the Endangered Species List. With this move, both government and conservation agencies will be able to draft and implement life-saving measures for clownfish.
Click below to take a stand for this species!
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