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Date:2010-10-18

Clownfish for cartoons and brief bursts ofHave you seen the movie “Finding Nemo”? Remember the clown fish Nemo that has charmed millions of movie fans? If clown fishes (Anemonefishes) bring rainbow-like surprise to Taiwan’s ornamental fish industry in the next few years, that will be the happiest thing for Mr. Yuan-hsing Ho and Mr. Ming-chung Cheng, two researchers at the Eastern Marine Biology Research Center of the Fisheries Research Institute, the Council of Agriculture (COA).

Currently 90-95% of ornamental fishes in the market come from fresh water and more than 90% of them are produced in aquaculture farms, only less than 10% are wild. But the most popular ornamental fish in the market is clown fish grown in seawater. An overwhelming majority of clown fishes supplied to the world market are caught in the wild, with only a small portion of them came from aquaculture farms.

“ The movie ‘Finding Nemo’ has suddenly made clown fishes widely popular. Since clown fishes are in great demand, fishermen scrambled madly to catch them,” noted Mr. Ming-chung Cheng. Not only along the coast of Taiwan, even fishermen in Southeast Asia, the previous main origin of clown fishes, started to grab their market shares by increasing production.

A mainland Chinese survey showed that when the world ornamental fish market gradually turns to seawater ornamental fishes, marine reef fishes will become the key source of ornamental fishes in the 21st century. But the survey also found that fishermen of some countries using cyanide, dynamite or other destructive methods to catch seawater ornamental fishes have not only sharply reduced their supply but also seriously damaged their living environment.

According to the survey, those poisoned fishes died in a few weeks and dynamites killed most fishes living in and around marine reefs and endangered the ecosystem of coral reefs. Some study reports pointed out that 75% of ornamental fishes died at the time when they were caught and sometimes the fatality rate reached 90%.

Mr. Ming-chung Cheng said although this is sad for clown fishes but it offers Taiwan a great opportunity. Since protecting marine lives has become a worldwide trend and wild ornamental fishes in the sea will be protected one after the other by fishing and trading ban or restrictions, market demand for cultivated ornamental fishes will grow significantly and the situation offers Taiwan a great opportunity because of its clown fish production techniques.

The clown fish are spawningClown fishes contain two genera and 26 species and the Eastern Marine Biology Research Center has not only successfully developed the techniques to cultivate the 5 species of clown fishes in Taiwan but also established the techniques to cultivate another 10 species grown in other countries. Among a handful of countries in the world that hold clown fish cultivation techniques, Taiwan has techniques to cultivate the largest number of species.

This means clown fishes may become the main seawater ornamental fish for export in the future. And a mainland Chinese study indicated that the annual global wholesale trade of ornamental fishes valued at more than US$1 billion and US$6 billion worth of 1.5 billion clown fishes were traded in retail sales, making the overall annual output value of the industry exceeding US$14 billion.

The Eastern Marine Biology research Center engaged in studying clown fishes quite accidentally at the beginning, said Mr. Yuan-hsing Ho. After the Center's Aquatic Ecology Exhibition Hall was inaugurated in 2002, one day he suddenly discovered that clown fishes in an exhibition showcase were laying a large quantity of eggs and this had prompted his research on clown fish propagation technique. And when the movie “Finding Nemo” made clown fishes very popular suddenly in 2003, his clown fish research became one of the Center's major studies overnight. And it seems this research will become a tool with unlimited great potential of making big money in the future.

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