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‘Finding Dory’: Will It Create an Ecological Disaster?

Movie Talk

‘Finding Dory’: Will It Create an Ecological Disaster?

A Dory-like blue tang (Photo: ThinkStock)

Ellen DeGeneres just jokingly tweeted a (clearly photoshopped) logo for "Finding Dory 2" with the message, "Too soon?"

Real fish fans might think so.

"Finding Nemo" didn't exactly find lots of admirers among animal lovers, eco activists and scientists. After all, misguided movie lovers raced to acquire Nemo-esque clownfish as pets; others sought to liberate their existing fish by flushing them down the loo or dumping them in the ocean. Moreover, increased demand eventually put those poor little clownfish at risk of full on extinction.

But this time around, as its sequel has been announced, everything seems honky Dory … for the most part.

"PETA believes that Ellen DeGeneres, a vegan and an animal protector, will serve as a positive example for children and families as the star of 'Finding Dory,'" the organization told Yahoo! Movies in a statement. (It's worth noting that DeGeneres was named PETA's Woman of the Year in 2009.)

The animal-loving nonprofit organization put a positive spin on their cautionary message to the public: "In the film, Dory will be reunited with her loved ones, and we hope that theme will inspire the film's fans to view fish as friends, not food, and remind everyone that fish like Dory should be permitted to live in peace with their families, rather than being captured and forced to live in a microcosm of their natural world -- a tank or an aquarium -- separated from everyone and almost everything that is a part of who they are."

PETA did praise Disney when "Nemo" first came out in 2003 for relaying the "friends, not food" message back then as well.

But it's clear that experts don't want everyone rushing out to buy Dory-like blue tang for their at-home tanks, especially if they wind up having a change of heart and try to flush or dump their finny friends in an effort to help them.

Dory in 'Finding Dory'

Dory in 'Finding Dory' (Photo: Walt Disney/Pixar)

A recent U.C. Davis report found that aquarium fish -- like the ones depicted in "Nemo" (and, hence, "Dory") -- are being thrust upon the open ocean in droves, disrupting marine ecosystems. A significant portion of the 11 million-plus non-native aquarium fish and plants that are imported yearly through California ports are being introduced into the ocean – and they're considered invasive species. The results of this study are thought to be indicative of the rest of the world, too. And these invasive aquarium fish can be expensive to eradicate. "If people were just aware that they shouldn't dump their aquariums in any natural waters, that goes a long way to averting this problem," Susan Williams told NBC News.

Separately, last year, the Center for Biological Diversity petitioned the National Marine Fisheries Service to expand protection of tropical aquarium fish such as the blue tang and clownfish. The reason: the harvesting of such creatures could reduce populations and potentially accelerate the already-imperiled health of coral reefs, which are jeopardized by such other human-spawned bugaboos as climate change and ocean acidification.

Having said that, the blue tang is not an endangered species.

The Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, California, seemed as hopeful as PETA that "Finding Dory" would inspire moviegoers to treat the ocean well. "It is our hope that this animated feature inspires people to care for the ocean and its inhabitants," Perry Hampton, the aquarium's vice president of animal husbandry told Yahoo! Movies. "Blue tangs can be found around coral reefs, which are the living rainforests of the ocean. By reducing pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, and overfishing, we can help protect these important ecosystems and the diversity of life that depends on them."

The Humane Society of the United States is warning future blue tang fans from purchasing fish from their natural habitat. "Since kids will likely be fascinated with the blue tang and other fish featured in the film, we also hope Disney-Pixar will make a point of deterring consumers from buying wild-caught fish, which is harmful to fragile coral reef ecosystems," the organization told Yahoo! Movies.

"Finding Dory," featuring Ellen DeGeneres, swims into theaters November 25, 2015.

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