Why You Should Save — Not Buy — the Real-Life ‘Dory’

“Just keep swimming,” is Dory’s wise advice to Mr. Grumpy Gills in the 2003 animated “Finding Nemo” film.

Despite her dreadful memory, Dory, based on a royal blue tang and voiced over by comedian Ellen DeGeneres, gives some seriously good life advice that’s packaged in brilliant comedic timing. In the 2003 film, Nemo the clownfish might have stolen the show, but Dory stole our hearts. So it’s no surprise that Pixar chose Dory as the protagonist of “Finding Dory,” set to be released June 17, 2016.

Animal and environment advocates are excited about the film. DeGeneres, a vegan and animal lover (admittedly with her own controversy over her leather shoe line), has confirmed the film’s anti-SeaWorld, or anti-captivity, message, and she hopes that it will raise awareness for ocean protection that we desperately need.

So what could be the harm in an animated, amnesiac, funny, blue fish like Dory?

Saving Dory

Scientists don’t want “Finding Dory” to start a royal blue tang craze.áLoving parents who just want to give their children their own Nemo or Dory usually have no idea what these fish go through.

Researchers from the University of Queensland and Flinders University at Adelaideálaunchedá”The Saving Nemo Conservation Fund” to protect the real-life versions of Dory and Nemo in the wild. Anita Nedosyko, a marine biologist and co-founder of the Fund, tellsáBrisbane Timesáthatáalmost half of clownfish pets come from the wild –áfrom places such asáthe Great Barrier Reef (where they’re declining), Indonesia, Philippines and southeast Asia.

Nedosyko goes on to explain that clownfish in the Great Barrier Reef are already pressured because of coral bleaching, ocean acidification and warmer temperatures. The situation is actually worse in certain countries where cyanide is used, which “stuns the fish,” according to Nedosyko, makingáitáeasier to catch them.

Cyanide poisoning is a traumatic experience for the fish. “Severe gasping, followed by loss of balance and a complete loss of all respiratory activity,” reportsáNational Geographic.áOver 90 percent of saltwater aquarium fish imported to the U.S. are captured via this cruel and illegal practice.

Beyond individual fish, cyanide hurts the entire ecosystem. “Each live fish caught with cyanide destroys about a square yard of coral,” reports National Geographic, and without healthy coral, the entire ecosystem collapses. The fish that survive that horrible experience and the cruel transit will often not last long in captivity.

There’s a short list of species, like the clownfish, that can be successfully bred in captivity. Marine advocates like Nedosyko recommend focusing on those efforts and education. As the marine biologist tells the Brisbane Times:

“We are not trying to discourage them as pets, they are incredible to watch and they promote a love of the animal. We are just saying, think smart about the impact and think about where your fish are coming from.”

But for a species like the royal blue tang, breeding in captivity isn’t an option, so they have to be taken from the wild. These fish are just not suited for lives in captivity: “they need algae and that is not easy to replicate with fish pellets and [they] are prone to disease,” explains Nedosyko.

It’s not just fish like Nemo and Dory in trouble. Children in China were begging their parents for wild African fennec foxes after the release of the wildly popular “Zootropolis.”

I was a kid once, too — I’ve wanted everything from pink-tailed horses to talking cats. I know what it’s like to become totally obsessed with characters, and I remember begging my parents for plush toys and action figures. But I also know that the obsession wanes after a while. And where does that leave the real-life Dory’s and Nemo’s in the world?

Maybe “Blackfish” awoke a new kind of sensibility in me, but I personally can’t justify all of this harm for a fish (no matter how small) to swim circles in an artificial tank just because it looks nice. There are other ways to harness aáchild’s natural love of a certain character through environmental stewardship and protection programs.

So let’s take Dory’s advice and let the royal blue tang “just keep swimming” where it belongs — the wild.

Take Action!

Crucial education is missing from this conversation. Sign and share this petition urging aquarium professionals to educate their guests and patrons of the real-life situation of the royal blue tang so that more informed decisions can be made.

Photo Credit: Kuba Bo┼╝anowski


Angela K.
Angela K2 years ago

Petition signed & shared

Melania Padilla
Melania P2 years ago

Exotic species should be banned worldwide from being sold, these animals belong to their habitats. And we need to educate people; we need to stop the demand on wildlife!

Siyus Copetallus
Siyus C2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Marie W.
Marie W3 years ago

Ban all exotic pet trade!

Pablo B.
.3 years ago


Peggy B.
Peggy B3 years ago

petition signed.

Sherry Kohn
Sherry Kohn3 years ago


Patricia Harris
John Taylor3 years ago

I do hope that this will not only help keep tropical fish in their natural habitat, but also help put an end to drilling and mining in them as well.

Terri S.
Terri S3 years ago

All wildlife (fish included) belong free in the wild!!

Frances Bell
Frances Bell3 years ago

Absolutely..... fish should never be kept in captivity. Even goldfish suffer being in small tanks and worse, most people who keep fish don't have a clue how to look after them and would never consider taking them to the vet when they (inevitably) get sick. Leave them in the oceans, seas and lakes where they belong.