‘Finding Dory’ Worries Marine Biologists Over Demand for Rare Fish

Ironically, a franchise about wild fish fighting captivity could lead to destruction of ecosystems by people seeking pets

When “Finding Nemo” came out in 2003, countless kids left theaters wanting a fish tank with their own pet Nemo. Now marine biologists are worried that Pixar’s upcoming sequel, “Finding Dory,” could create a similar demand, with major consequences for coral reefs.

According to marine science magazine Hakai, sales of clownfish at pet stores rose by an estimated 40 percent after the release of “Finding Nemo.” This didn’t pose too too great an environmental issue since clownfish can easily be raised in captivity to meet demand. Dory, on the other hand, is a blue tang, a species that fares poorly in tanks. Marine biologists worry that the new movie will increase demand for pet Dorys, prompting collectors to ramp up their efforts to grab blue tangs from the wild.

Ironically, a franchise about wild fish fighting for freedom from captivity could lead to large-scale depletion of critical ecosystems. According to Hakai, the majority of fish collecting for aquariums takes place in reefs around Indonesia and the Philippines, where there are no regulations governing fish collection. This often leads to harmful practices such as over-collecting and the use of coral-damaging chemicals like cyanide.

Marine research facilities are trying to limit the damage by experimenting with different techniques that may allow for the breeding of blue tangs in captivity, but so far there have been no successful attempts. Projects to raise blue tangs in tanks began back in 2012, about a year before Pixar announced “Finding Dory.” Now, with the film’s release just a month away, researchers find themselves on a tight timeline.

The researchers’ biggest ally in the fight against unethical fish collection may be the film they’re so worried about. Dory’s voice actor, Ellen DeGeneres, said in a Yahoo! interview last August that she hopes the sequel will send the message that fish belong in the ocean and not aquariums.

“It’s what this whole sequel is about: It’s about rehabilitation and putting them back in the ocean,” DeGeneres said. “Hopefully that discussion starts with this film, because we really need to protect that environment.”

“Finding Dory” will be released in theaters June 17.