SYDNEY, Australia (ABC News Online, Nov. 18) - An increase in demand for tropical aquarium fish is stripping small colorful fish from the reefs of Vanuatu.

The demand has surged since the release of the animated film Finding Nemo.

Tourism and diving operators in Vanuatu say the reefs are being exploited by agents for the lucrative trade.

A spokesman for the group of concerned tourism companies, Peter Whitelaw, says the government sees the trade as good for development.

"We're a bit concerned when the aquarium trade come in with licensing from the Government's Fisheries and the Investment Promotion Authority, which is encouraging any form of investment here at the moment," he said.

"We are more or less the underwater watchdogs, we are the ones who can see what's going on and they are just taking such vast quantities of fish that we felt it necessary to alert the public."

Mr Whitelaw added: "The idea of the movie was for people to question man's need to dominate all the other species for his own gratification and these little fish have their own lives to lead in the wilderness.

"They're not just ornaments, which is what the aquarium trade see them as."

He says dive operators are worried more pristine reef areas will be next.

"There are particular reefs that they've targeted and a lot of them are the very reefs that we take snorkellers and divers."

November 19, 2003

ABC News Online: http://abc.net.au/news/


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