As It Happens

Scientist worries Finding Nemo sequel could endanger real blue tang fish

The founder of the Saving Nemo Conservation Fund says efforts to protect blue tang fish must go into overdrive due to the upcoming release of the new Disney sequel Finding Dory.

'We've put out a call to Disney,' says Karen Burke da Silva

Karen Burke da Silva, far left, is an associate professor in Biodiversity and Conservation at Flinders University. The Vancouver native is concerned Disney's "Finding Dory" will threaten Blue Tang fish species. (University of Queensland/Facebook/Disney Pixar/AP)
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Will the new movie Finding Dory be a fish tale with a tragic end?

The founder of the Saving Nemo Conservation Fund, Karen Burke da Silva, told As It Happens guest host Helen Mann that the new Disney-Pixar sequel to Finding Nemo could be very bad news for the blue tang fish. 

Dory — voiced by Ellen DeGeneres —  is a blue tang fish

"They're very popular already," Burke da Silva explains. "If there is a big surge then we are concerned there will be a lot more problems."

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Karen Burke da Silva of the Saving Nemo Conservation Fund is concerned the release of Disney's 'Finding Dory' will lead to overfishing of Blue Tangs. (Twitter)

In 2003, when the animated hit Finding Nemo came out, it triggered a huge demand for clownfish.

People fell in love with the story of the timid clownfish, and it wasn't enough just to see Nemo on the big screen — people wanted to see him, or a reasonable facsimile — in their fish tanks.

"Nemo is just such a charismatic character that he drew the attention and love from people who saw the film," Burke da Silva said. "They just went home thinking they wanted to have a Nemo of their own."

Nemo, from the 2003 animated film "Finding Nemo." (Disney-Pixar)

The demand led to reports of overfishing and Burke da Silva says eventually clownfish were declared virtually extinct in some parts of the world.

Now, conservationists are trying to get ahead of the curve on the likely threat that Finding Dory will pose to the blue tang fish. 

"On one hand we've been told that the film has an even stronger conservation message," Burke da Silva reasons. "But the bigger concern is that at the moment the Blue Tang is not being bred in captivity. So 100 per cent of those fish, that species, have been taken from the wild."

This image released by Disney-Pixar shows the character Dory, voiced by Ellen DeGeneres, in a scene from "Finding Dory," opening Summer 2016. (Disney Pixar/AP)

Burke da Silva has reached out to Disney and DeGeneres, but has not yet heard back about her concerns, fearing this sequel could spark a dangerous demand for Blue Tangs and other wild ornamental fish.

"We've put out a call to Disney and a call out to Ellen DeGeneres hoping that we can get her on board," Burke da Silva explains. "We've also applied for a Disney Conservation Fund grant that we are supposed to hear about in August, so we'll keep our fingers crossed."

Burke da Silva, a Vancouver native, is an associate professor at the Faculty of Science and Engineering at Flinders University in Australia.

For more on this story, take a listen to our full interview.

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