How Can Media Attention Spell Disaster for Blue Tang Fish Populations? [Video]

How Can Media Attention Spell Disaster for Blue Tang Fish Populations? [Video]

The blue tang fish.


When Finding Nemo was released back in 2003, sales of clownfish skyrocketed as children everywhere begged their parents for a “Nemo fish.” At the time, the breeding and selling of clownfish was quickly unable to supply enough resources to keep up with demand. In order to do so, aquarium stores had to pay for wild-caught clownfish to avoid losing customers. Following the onslaught of clownfish popularity, research was done to measure the effect the movie had on natural clownfish populations. According to Dr. Sinclair, a scientist who conducted studies on the populations of clownfish around the world, “Studies of clownfish on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef have revealed a dramatic population decline since the release of the movie in 2003. Shoals that used to number dozens of clownfish have dwindled to just a few specimens, leaving them with difficulty breeding.” It goes without explaining that if a species is experiencing difficulty breeding, that species could be heading to extinction. Arizona-based Center for Biological Diversity raised a petition to add clownfish to the endangered species list in 2012, which was met with a review from the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). After review, the NMFS came to the conclusion that the species does not warrant the listing under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and was thereby not added to the endangered species list. Since clownfish are able to be bred in captive tanks, they are readily available.

Soon…we might not be able to find Dory. Aquariums all around the world have been preparing for the Finding Dory release on June 17, 2016 for the last year and a half. Unfortunately for the blue tang fish, children all around the world and new-found aquarium hobbyists who have never owned an aquarium before in their lives will be interested in owning not one, but two, maybe even three blue tang (this species likes to live in groups of at least two). Blue tang are currently facing the calm before the storm of their populations dwindling at staggering rates, because this species is unable to be bred in captivity. This means aquarium stores are buying wild-caught fish directly from their natural habitats. This will mean significantly less of the species in the wild to breed and protect corals. The blue tang are a staple in the reef community because with their long, sharp teeth they rip off algae that grow on the corals. Algae is the fish’s main diet. Not only is the blue tang supported by the algae, they also carry out a sort of grooming process for the corals by preventing that algae from building up and suffocating the corals. Think about it as a haircut, but with slimy, long hair that could potentially kill you if you do not control it.

Pictured above is a 130 gallon aquarium.
This is an example of the type of aquarium tank you would need in order to properly house a blue tang into adulthood. Pictured above is a 130 gallon aquarium.

The blue tang fish, as explained in the video by Quartz News below, is a delicate species that requires advanced care and a huge aquarium such as the one shown above. As an adult, blue tang reach 11-13 inches long, depending on its gender. It is important for parents, potential hobbyists and the like to remember that, as the video says, “If you really love Dory, do not buy the blue tang fish, buy a stuffed animal!”


Written By: Mariesa Outridge

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