Reef to Aquarium

The journey of a blue tang from a small reef in Indonesia, to an aquarist in the mountains of Colorado

The blue tang is one of the most popular fish in the aquarium trade. As the star species in the film Finding Dory, these fish are in greater demand than ever. Unfortunately, the blue tang cannot be captively bred. This creates a global supply chain that connects fishermen in small Pacific islands with hobby aquarists on the other side of the world. This is the story of how a Blue Tang travels around the world.



Meet Dory

Blue Tang Trade


The brightly coloured coral gardens of the Indo-Pacific are where Dory’s journey from reef to aquarium begins. Unlike Nemo, Dory is largely caught in the wild. While she lives on reefs across the globe - from Hawaii to Japan - Indonesia and the Philippines are where most blue tangs are collected. Dory’s passage from coral reefs to home aquariums around the world creates a tremendous supply chain - one that has remained largely unknown, until now. Join us where we first meet Dory, in her home - the ancient rainforests of the sea.

Home on the Reef

Captive Blue Tang


The brightly coloured coral gardens of the Indo-Pacific are where Dory’s journey from reef to aquarium begins. Unlike Nemo, Dory is largely caught in the wild. While she lives on reefs across the globe - from Hawaii to Japan - Indonesia and the Philippines are where most blue tangs are collected. Dory’s passage from coral reefs to home aquariums around the world creates a tremendous supply chain - one that has remained largely unknown, until now. Join us where we first meet Dory, in her home - the ancient rainforests of the sea.

Dive in to Indonesia's Reefs

Collectors

Fisherman


Dory’s life begins on coral reefs, but her global journey doesn’t really start until her first contact with an aquarium fisherman, often called an ‘ornamental harvester’ or ‘collector’. Using handmade nets, snorkel masks and fins, collectors are experts at catching up to hundreds of fish per day. These fisherman reside in over 45 countries across the globe and are Dory’s first link into the global aquarium trade. Often, harvesters tend to be from lower socioeconomic classes, have little education, and rely on collecting aquarium fish as their sole source of income. Collectors are linked to fish in every way, relying on them and other marine resources for food, finances and their futures.
Meet Rasdin, a Sama-Bajau or “Sea-Nomad” from the Bokan Kepulauan District in Central Sulawesi, Indonesia.

Meet Rasdin, a “Sea-Nomad”

Middleman

Middleman


What happens after Dory is collected from her home? Harvesters hand over their fish to middlemen - the next step of Dory’s journey. In many communities, middlemen collect fish from between 7-20 harvesters. Often business savvy, the middlemen are the first indication of the global reach of the aquarium trade. Responsible for selling, rearing and transporting the fish for export, middleman juggle fish biology, community-relations, business and logistics.
Meet Sarly, the middleman who works with the Sama-Bajau fishers in Toropot, Indonesia as he helps move fish from the waters of Indonesia to homes around the world.

Meet Sarly, a Middleman

Exporter

Double C Exporters


The aquarium trade is big business, a multi-billion dollar industry that links the most remote reefs and communities with densely populated cities around the globe. Demand for these remarkable, colourful creatures has been steadily rising since our world became globally connected by air in the 1970’s - making the rapid transport of live fish clear across the globe possible. Today, some 45 nations supply a staggering 2000 species of fish to countries around the world, though they mostly fill aquariums in the United States, Japan and Western Europe. To meet the demand for exotic salt-water (known as marine) fishes, a new profession was born: the ornamental fish exporter.
Meet Conrad Chen, one of the largest ornamental fish exporters in Indonesia, as we explore how the aquarium trade evolves from small-scale harvesting into big, global business.

Meet Conrad, an Exporter

Los Angeles Import


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Aquarists

Colorado Aquarist


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