Finding Dory, Pixar’s greatly anticipated sequel to Finding Nemo, is a family movie that features animated, talking fish, such as the blue tang and the clownfish. Despite the film’s child-like innocence, Dory may actually be detrimental to the marine population and environment.
When Finding Nemo was released in 2003, environmental marine biologists did not expect the impact that the movie would have on the clownfish population. According to NOLA.com, research by ABC stated that the population of wild clownfish dramatically decreased after the release of the prequel as people demanded to see the famous Nemo in their pet stores, aquariums, and household fish tanks.
“The film had a very strong fish conservation message,” Flinders University Associate Professor Karen Burke da Silva told abc.net. “…but instead people decided, because Marlin and Nemo were such charismatic characters, that they wanted a clownfish as a pet.”
The central idea behind Finding Nemo is for Nemo, or the clownfish, to go home back to his dad. According to MPR News and the LA Times, children who saw the movie and bought their own Nemo, flushed their fishes down the toilet for the sake of “giving their new pets freedom.”
RotoRooter is a plumbing company that retrieves valuables that were accidentally flushed down the toilet. Margie Valadez, a dispatcher for RotoRooter, told the LA Times that she began to receive calls from parents asking the company if it were possible to rescue fish from the sewers.
“I hear kids crying in the background,” said Valadez. “But there’s nothing we can do. They’re gone.”
In the Valencia location alone, RotoRooter has received 70 calls from parents and their kids asking to save their pet fish. According to the LA Times, flushed fish usually die before they reach the sewers due to trauma or exposure to fresh water.
When the trailer for Finding Dory was released, marine biologists spoke out about the dangers that the movie could pose on the population of blue tangs, as this species makes it to the big screen as the character Dory.
Some believe the coral reef environment is also in danger. According to the National Geographic, fishers have illegally used sodium cyanide mixtures as anaesthetics to easily catch the impaired fish, especially in countries such as Sri Lanka, Indonesia, and the Philippines. In a 2008 study from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 90 percent of the 11 million tropical fish that entered the United States were illegally caught with sodium cyanide. Therefore, other fish and the surrounding coral are in danger due to the exposure of the sodium cyanide. For every fish that is caught with cyanide, a square yard of coral is bleached and injured, or killed. As coral functions as home, food and protection for sea life, the surrounding ecosystem is compromised as well.
On the contrary, the release of Finding Nemo also had positive effects which can also occur after the release of Finding Dory. Due to the high demand for more clownfish in home aquariums, more captive breeding took place. The film also includes a positive message that spreads awareness about coral bleaching and global warming within the marine ecosystems.
Therefore, researchers and activists are attempting to conserve the environment and fish populations through a foundation and social media. In Australia, The Saving Nemo Foundation was created to raise awareness about the detrimental effect that the movie has on the environment, and a social campaign under #FishKiss4Nemo was created as a way to appeal to the tech-savvy generation.