P.E.I. scientist finding how 'Dory' gets from reef to aquarium

Andrea Reid grew up in O'Leary, P.E.I. She became a National Geographic explorer while doing her masters and is now doing her PhD. Her research into the aquarium fish industry is being funded by the National Geographic Society.

Project funded by National Geographic and part of online competition

Andrea Reid says movie characters like Disney's Dory — a blue tang, or Paracanthurus hepatus — can be exploited. (David Pardo/The Victor Valley Daily Press/The Associated Press)

Growing up in O'Leary, P.E.I., Andrea Reid says she studied every National Geographic she could get her hands on. Now the society behind the magazine is funding her PhD research.   

Reid, a National Geographic explorer, is working on a project called Reef to Aquarium. It looks at ways of making the aquarium trade more sustainable, she told Mainstreet's Angela Walker.

"It's often demonized in the media with a lot of attention on the use of cyanide and harmful fishing practices for collecting aquarium fish," she said.

Andrea Reid, from O'Leary, P.E.I., is a National Geographic explorer who is pursuing a PhD at UBC and Carleton University. (Sly Lee)

The aquarium trade is also a multi-billion-dollar global industry where movie characters like Disney's Dory — a blue tang or Paracanthurus hepatus — can be exploited, she said.

"Humans are involved throughout this supply chain where this is their primary livelihood and they depend on a healthy trade to sustain themselves and their families."

Andrea Reid searches for tropical fish for her project Reef to Aquarium. (Taken by fellow National Geographic Explorer Mikayla Wujec.)

Reid is collaborating with three other National Geographic explorers on the project.

"Consumers need to know where their money is going," she said. "Aquarium hobbyists love it but they're always looking for ways to treat fish better."

The Reef to Aquarium team wants to provide information on where the fish are coming from and how that affects the fishers and environment. Eventually they plan to build an interactive website showing how the trade works. 

"You'll be able to walk through the supply chain of fish, starting in the small Pacific islands, then to a larger shipping centre like Bali and eventually to Los Angeles."

The team is also working on a documentary. But right now they're trying to hook people on a one-minute video about Reef to Aquarium.

It's part of an online competition by the National Sciences and Engineering Council of Canada, the largest science funding body in Canada. The 25 videos with the most views will proceed to the judges' panel, where they will compete for one of 15 cash prizes.

The deadline for voting is March 2. ​