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The phenomenal success of Finding Dory, the much-awaited sequel to the 2003 film, Finding Nemo, is being met with mixed feelings by marine experts. That’s because though the animated movie is the perfect platform to draw attention to the precarious state of our coral reefs, it may instead result in endangering both the reef and its inhabitants further.
This trend was first observed following the release of Finding Nemo, when the clownfish became the pet of choice for every kid. As a result, the number of clownfish in the wild plunged, disrupting the natural ecosystem. Fortunately, before the situation became irreversible, marine experts managed to find a way to breed the fish in captivity.
While researchers have since been able to successfully breed more than 300 marine aquarium fish, there are thousands more that have proven to be elusive. Among them is the regal blue tang, which has failed to breed in captivity despite various attempts made by scientists. Hence, all the regal blue tangs currently being sold in pet stores have been captured directly from the ocean.
Though that is bad enough, what is even more alarming is that most regal blue tangs are caught with the help of cyanide. This practice entails dissolving cyanide tablets into seawater and squirting it on individual specimens or even worse, dumping the entire mixture into the water.
The chemical compound stuns the fish, allowing them to be easily captured and sold to pet stores. Given that cyanide is toxic to humans, it should come as no surprise that exposure to it not only bleaches the corals but also harms the surrounding marine life. Even the captured fish are not immune to the effect of the poison. Many end up dying within months of being brought to the store.
It is illegal to sell fish that have been caught using cyanide in the US. However, a 2008 study conducted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration discovered that up to 90% of the 11 million tropical fishes brought into the country each year have been captured using this harmful fishing technique.
More recently, Craig Downs, the Director of the Haereticus Environmental Laboratory in Virginia, and Rene Umberger, the Director of Conservation Group For the Fishes, conducted a study to test if the fish sold in US pet stores had been exposed to cyanide. They discovered that of the 100 specimens bought from stores in California, Hawaii, Maryland, North Carolina, and Virginia, over half, including the regal blue tangs, had cyanide in their systems.
To enable customers to make better decisions when looking for fish for their home aquariums, the researchers have created a free mobile app. Called Tank Watch, it identifies the species that have been captured using humane, legal fishing methods. But given that only 40 of the 1,800 favorite species of aquarium fish fall in that category, the chances of “Finding” Dory on the list is very slim.
It is no wonder that the World Wildlife Foundation and other marine advocates are urging fans of the movie not to “Find” Dory, but to “Defend” the beautiful fish! This means not rushing out and making an impulsive purchase of a regal blue tang after watching the film. As Ellen Degeneres, the voice actress for Dory says, the sequel is not about “Finding” Dory, but about “rehabilitation and putting them (the fish) back in the ocean.”
Resources: npr.org, inquisitr.com,techtimes.com, phys.org