Activists are concerned the growing demand for the Royal Blue Tang, made famous by Dory and Pixar Animation, could lead to its local extinction.
Finding Dory, sequel to the family movie blockbuster Finding Nemo, was released this month and has already broken records for animation powerhouse Pixar and parent company Disney.
But like the clownfish before it, some are worried the popularity of the animated fish voiced by Ellen Degeneres could put it in serious danger.
Flinders University associate professor Karen Burke da Silva told The New Daily at least 300,000 wild Blue Tangs will end up in stores this year, while many more will die after being taken home by “amateurs”.
Dr Burke da Silva, who started the Saving Nemo Project eight years ago, said no one should be taking home the Blue Tang.
Straight from the ocean
Blue Tangs cannot be bred in captivity and are all captured in the wild.
“We know that on top of the 300,000 [headed to aquariums], another 25 per cent are killed upon collection and never even make it to stores,” Dr da Silva said.
“The concern is that they’re being over-collected to the point of local extinction.”
The Saving Nemo Project is yet to catch the eye of Ellen Degeneres, but the TV host did tell Yahoo Movies her thoughts on Dory as a pet in 2015.
“I think that fish should be in the ocean. It’s what this whole sequel is about.”
Degeneres also recently put pressure on the Australian government to help better conserve the Great Barrier Reef.
Dory isn’t an easy pet
Those tempted to take Dory home should know the Blue Tang is not just another goldfish that nibbles generic fish flakes every now and then.
Dr Burke da Silva said marine aquarium fish require a larger tank, salt water, a protein skimmer, a heater (and maybe chiller in summer) for constant temperature, and salinity vigilance.
They also need multiple daily feedings to stay healthy.
Making things worse, the Blue Tang grows a lot larger than many pet owners expect, leading to them being “dumped”, Dr Burke da Silva said.
The fish are also likely to be stressed and more sensitive to captivity conditions after coming from the wild.
What about Nemo?
Dr Burke da Silva said while the clownfish remained a popular pet, ‘Nemo’ stocks were now largely coming from breeding in captivity and not the wild.
Since its inception, the Saving Nemo Project has facilitated the breeding of 1000 clownfish in captivity for retail use.
But she said significant numbers were still being removed throughout South-East Asia, using “illegal fishing practices”.
“They use cyanide poisoning to stun them,” she said, adding that many end up dying.
Ms Burke da Silva said even in Australia, which has strict regulations about where and how you can fish, researchers have reported falling populations.