Pixar's Finding Nemo (2003) became an instant classic, but it also delivered some good life lessons: family is what you make of it, persistence and love will win the day, and fish belong in the ocean rather than in our homes. Unfortunately, that last moral didn’t seem to stick with moviegoers. As you’ll see in the video above from Great Big Story, conservationists say that the demand for pet clownfish like Nemo skyrocketed after the film’s release, and the same is poised to happen with Dory, the blue tang who stars in the recently released Finding Dory. But unlike clownfish, blue tangs can’t be raised in captivity, which means 100 percent of the blue tangs for sale are wild-caught.
The aquarium trade put a huge dent in wild clownfish populations after Finding Nemo. In some places, the species even went locally extinct. Fortunately (for the wild fish, anyway), clownfish are relatively easy to breed in captivity, so families in search of their own Nemo could potentially purchase an ethically raised fish.
The same is not true for Dory. To date, there is only one place in the world that has successfully raised blue tangs, and that’s in an aquaculture laboratory at the University of Florida. The lab is not breeding tangs for sale, which means that the only blue tang you can buy is one that has been forcibly removed from its home on a coral reef, possibly with poison.
One of the most popular methods for capturing live fish is to spray a reef—and all its inhabitants—with cyanide. Some of the fish will be stunned and can be scooped up. But 50 percent of them, and their coral home, will die immediately (as if our planet’s coral reefs weren’t in enough trouble already). By purchasing blue tangs and some other tropical fish, pet owners are unwittingly contributing to the destruction of marine habitats and the senseless killing of many fish.
The take-home message is the same one we should have learned 13 years ago: Wild fish belong in the wild.
Want to help spread the word? Check out the Saving Nemo project's Million Kisses campaign.
Header image from YouTube // Great Big Story
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