No Need to Go Finding Nemo

By Annabel Thomas

For The Bali Times

SEMINYAK ~ On celluloid, Nemo had difficulty finding his way home but recent research has found that, in reality, juveniles of those oh-so-cute orange and white anemonefish (aka clownfish) generally find their way back to their parents after being swept out to sea.

In Papua New Guinea scientists studying coral reefs found 60 percent of anemonefish that were swept out into open ocean managed to find their way back to their tiny home reef.

Glenn Almany from James Cook University in Australia and a member of the research team said they were unable to determine how far afield the juvenile anemonefish were washed before they journeyed home, but they were generally gone for 11 days before returning.

The team injected female fish with a trace of a harmless isotope that then found its way into their eggs and was later observed in the baby fish.

He reported that in a study of 300 female anemonefish and Vagabond butterflyfish, 60 percent of the juveniles found were actually produced by the parents on that reef while the other 40 percent had come from somewhere else – that somewhere else being at least 10 kilometers away. The team concluded that populations are connected to each other.

Almany said this tagging technique could revolutionize the management of coral reefs and help with restoration of depleted fish stocks.

These findings will help on every level – governmental to local – with understanding about fish larvae dispersal and therefore better designs of marine protected areas.

The team is currently working here in Bali to tag Coral trout, a species that is overfished in some waters.

“Tagging would help you to select the right reefs to protect, in order to maintain the overall population – and the fish catch into the future,” Almany said.

The writer is director of AquaMarine Diving – Bali.

Filed under: The Island

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