Selling Dory… Whose Fault Will it Be When Blue Tang Fish Go on the Endangered Species List?

June 16, 2016 3 min read

The other day, I came across this “public service announcement”. This summer, the sequel to the massively popular Finding Nemo will be released, Finding Dory. Apparently, when Finding Nemo came out, sales of clownfish went through the roof, with wee ones wanting their own adorable little, orange swimmer (I guess the escape-from-captivity theme of the film was lost on most tots!)

No problem, this PSA argues: clownfish can be bred in tanks, and the everyone in the industry benefited from the profitability of Disney’s film.

But, Dory is different. She is a Blue Tang Fish and cannot be bred in captivity; she has to be caught in the wild. Blue Tangs are also finicky and difficult to keep alive in anything but the perfect conditions. In other words, a terrible choice for a child’s novelty pet.

This video was addressing these realities and the call was clear to two different groups:

  • To the parents of kids who will inevitably want their own little Dory: Say no! Don’t buy this Blue Tang as a pet; the misplaced love could actually be disastrous for the species.
  • And to the Disney Corporation: Encourage parents not to buy Blue Tangs as pets! You are creating this excitement, so it is your responsibility to mitigate the disastrous effects.

These are good and fair directives, and I agree that both of these entities should know about and act on this knowledge.

BUT, aren’t we missing something?


What about the ones selling the tropical fish? If it’s such a bad idea, don’t we have a call for them as well?

The whole video was permeated with an assumption that the ones who are actually providing the fish have no moral imperative at all. It seems to say, If I am in the business of selling fish and making money, and this thing is a cash cow, of course I will provide the people with what they want!  If high school social studies served me right, that’s a market economy. Someone in business has no moral imperative (beyond the bounds of law); their only imperative is to make the business profitable & thriving. To me, by looking through this lens, we are missing something.

It is much easier – as each, individual person in question – to shift the focus to one of the other group bodies. If you’re the aquarium-owner, it’s the people who want the fish who are the problem. If you’re a mom, it’s Disney for making my kid want it.

How do we go beyond finger-pointing and work as a community to make good decisions?

Personally, we are responsible for each and every one our purchasing choices. We decide into whose hands our hard-earned money will be placed. And the way we make those choices communicates our opinions, from the front line (the shop-owner who provides me with goods) all the way to the first link in the production chain. No one gets a free pass; nobody's actions are an inevitable result of unseen forces.

As a community, we can lead calls to action like this campaign, and help keep each other accountable to more than the bottom line.

Does that sound exhausting? It doesn’t have to be! Just slow down, keep your eyes & ears open, and if your record today is better than yesterday’s, that is a win! Trust me. I'm moving at a snail's pace here, but I still think it is better than nothing. :)

 

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