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The Great Barren Reef: No More Nemo?

Clownfish populations within the Great Barrier Reef are in the spotlight and facing possible extinction, thanks to our bustling night life.

In 2003 Pixar classic Finding Nemo, Marlin, a humble clownfish, spends days searching for his missing son Nemo, swimming from the Great Barrier Reef all the way to 42 Wallaby Way, Sydney.

That story has a happy ending -- but the real-life sequel may not.

Nemo and other clownfish are now facing a new threat, thanks to the bright lights that make up our coastline, appearing along piers, harbours, and of course, on board cruise ships.

READ MORE: Tourists Visiting The Great Barrier Reef Left Feeling Sad And Angry

Researchers at Flinders University have found that reefs exposed to artificial light at night are preventing the famous fish from reproducing.

Research assistant Emily Forbert tested clownfish eggs against light, and the results were alarming.

"For the fish that were exposed to low levels of light at night, none of the eggs hatched," Forbert told 10 News First on Wednesday.

"If the clownfish eggs aren't hatching, then these fish won't be contributing to the next generation."

The effects are so significant, the consequences could extend to other marine life and potentially put at risk the thousands of other species of fish that live within the Great Barrier Reef.

And our famous reef is facing serious challenges of its own.

Environmental crusader Sir David Attenborough says Australia's iconic coral reef system is at risk of collapse.

READ MORE: Sir David Attenborough Slams Australia On Climate Change

"I will never forget diving on the reef 10 years ago.. and suddenly seeing that instead of this multitude of wonderful forms of life, that it was stark white," Attenborough told a UK committee on Tuesday.

The reef has suffered from bleaching events caused by global warming in the past two decades, with the 2016 bleaching estimated to have killed 93 percent of the northern section of the reef, according to a study published in Nature.

READ MORE: It's Too Late For The Great Barrier Reef, It Can't Recover

Contact the author: tryan@networkten.com.au

Featured image: Getty