Don't Go Looking for Nemo

By Heather Moore

Finding Nemo may be a fish story, but it's revealing an awful lot about human
nature. It seems this charming movie about a clownfish who struggles to
escape from an aquarium and find his way back to the open ocean is motivating some
people to buy captive clownfish.

Talk about missing the big picture. Buying tropical fish after seeing Finding
Nemo is like going to Sea World after watching Free Willy or having chicken
pot pie for dinner after seeing Chicken Run. It just doesn't mesh with the
movie's fish-friendly message.

Gill, one of the fish kept in the tank at the dentist's office where Nemo
ended up, even tells the young clownfish that "fish aren't meant to be in a box,
kid. It does things to ya."
Yet, recent news reports indicate that people are attempting to replicate the
entire aquarium featured in the movie, complete with eight saltwater fish.

In Indonesia and the Philippines, the source of most saltwater fish sold in
the U.S., many fish divers collect their prey by squirting cyanide or other
poisons into the coral reefs where the fish live. The cyanide, which is meant to
stun fish so that they will drift out of the reef for easy collection, kills
as many as half of the fish on the spot.

Fish are more than mere decorations or tools for stress relief. They are
living, feeling beings capable of experiencing stress of their own. They are born
to dwell in the majestic seas and they suffer miserably when forced to spend
their lives enclosed in glass aquariums, robbed of their natural habitat and
denied the space to roam. They must swim and re-swim the same barren cubic
inches, often in isolation. The largest tank in the world cannot come close to the
vast oceans and lakes that are the natural homes of these animals.

Fish have individual personalities, and, like humans, communicate with each
other, form bonds and grieve when their companions die. One South African
newspaper even reported a touching story about Big Red, a large Oranda goldfish,
who would carry Blackie, a severely deformed Moor goldfish who had difficulty
swimming, to the surface of their tank at feeding times so they both could eat.

Fish communicate emotional states such as courtship, alarm or submission
through a range of low-frequency sounds. Researchers at the Woods Hole
Oceanographic Institution report that these sounds are audible to humans only with
special instruments. The pumps and filters necessary to keep fish alive in many home
aquariums can interfere with this communication.

Most individuals purchasing clownfish and other tropical fish are doing so on
a whim and are not properly prepared to care for them. Many of the fish will
simply be left to suffer and die when the initial charm wears off and people
grow tired of feeding them and cleaning the aquariums.

Fortunately, the marketing geniuses at Disney/Pixar anticipated the consumer
frenzy after the fish flick premiered and put every imaginable collectable on
the market, including an mini Nemo bean bag, just $8.50 at The Disney Store.
If you want a clownfish, go there. Leave the real Nemos under the sea where
they belong.

Heather Moore writes for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).

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