When it comes to protecting and saving a natural habitat, ecosystem or species from extinction, publicity is one of the most necessary and important tools needed to inform, educate and get people to care but in an ironic twist of fate, publicity may be what leads the royal blue tang to extinction.
“Finding Dory“, the long-awaited sequel to “Finding Nemo“ swam into theaters June 17, 2016 and became the biggest domestic animated opening of all time making a whopping $136.2 million its opening weekend. While this kind of exposure is normally what conservation groups dream about, unfortunately, for the royal blue tang this might have tripled their risk of endangerment.
Currently, while the blue tang does live in one of the most important and endangered ecosystems of the world-the coral reefs- it’s neither threatened nor endangered but experts believe that this animated hit may very well put it on the list, as children and families will clamber to get a Dory of their own. Back in 2003, when “Finding Nemo“ was released, there was an extreme rise of demand for Nemo’s, a demand that according to the Center for Biological Diversity led to the capture of millions of wild clownfish, destroying their population and causing “irreparable harm to both the species and the coral reefs they inhabited.”
According to the Australian non-profit, Saving Nemo, over a million clownfish are taken from their home-the coral reefs- each year. While the demand for wild clownfish has lessened now that captive breeding is possible, unlike the clownfish, the blue tang is virtually impossible to breed in this type of environment, meaning that every blue tang seen swimming around in a tank was born wild.
This lack of aquarium-bred Dory’s will drive traders and collectors alike to capture more wild blue tangs leading to what Hakai, a marine science magazine, calls a “harvest that’s often unregulated and destructive.”
Besides the problems coral reef ecosystems would face if the blue tangs were to disappear, such as coral suffocation due to overgrown algae, life in an aquarium is miserable and lethal to a blue tang. Growing up to be 12 inches once they reach adulthood, the blue tang is considered to be a wide-roaming coral reef fish, needing a nice amount of space to swim, and like most fish that are taken from the wild, their natural life span is considerably shortened when in captivity. The blue tang is also difficult to care for, requiring a minimum tank size of 180 gallons, which the Center for Biological Diversity describes to be “about the size of a small sofa and at least three times larger than the average home tank.”
While the publicity “Finding Dory” gives these animals may lead to some serious negative effects there are others who think that the movie, much like its predecessor “Finding Nemo“, will open the dialogue on ocean conservation.
“We have to protect our oceans and we should,” Ellen DeGeneres, the voice of Dory, said in an interview with Yahoo! Movies. “Hopefully that discussion starts with [Finding Dory] too because we really do have to protect that environment.”
Only time will tell if the film’s success will lead to the endangerment of these animals and their habitats or if it will truly be a gateway to opening discussions on how to conserve the ocean to ensure that Dory and her friends will continue to survive for many years to come.
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