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“Third fisherman: ...Master, I marvel how the fishes live in the sea.
First fisherman: Why, as men do a-land; the great ones eat up the little ones.”
— Shakespeare

Overview

Students design and conduct research to discover firsthand what type of fish is being sold in their community, where this fish comes from, and whether that fish is an overfished species. This lesson gives students a chance to do their own market research and discover first-hand what type of fish is being sold to the public. It also provides an introduction to fish as an important food source and as an industry controlled partly by supply and demand. The results that emerge from this lesson will likely lead your students to question the role of public education in seafood choices for sustainable fisheries.

Objectives

  • Design a research project.
  • Conduct market research regarding the types and sources of fish sold in the local community.

Grade Level

8-12

Subjects

  • Language Arts
  • Science
  • Social Studies

Vocabulary

capacity, commodity, depletion, fishery, overfishing, populations, stocks, sustainability

Materials

  • Handout #1: List of overfished and near-overfished fish species
  • Handout #2: Overview of world's ocean fisheries
  • Handout #3: Sample graphs and charts

National Science Standards

This activity supports the following National Academy of Sciences science education standards.

Grades 5-8:

  • Unifying Concepts and Processes - Evidence, models, and explanation
  • Standard A: Science as Inquiry - Abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry
  • Standard A: Science as Inquiry - Understandings about scientific inquiry
  • Standard F: Science in Personal and Social Perspectives - Populations, resources and environments
  • Standard F: Science in Personal and Social Perspectives - Natural hazards
  • Standard F: Science in Personal and Social Perspectives - Risks and benefits

Grades 9-12:

  • Unifying Concepts and Processes - Evidence, models, and explanation
  • Standard A: Science as Inquiry - Abilities necessary to do scientific inquiry
  • Standard A: Science as Inquiry - Understandings about scientific inquiry
  • Standard F: Science in Personal and Social Perspectives - Natural resources
  • Standard F: Science in Personal and Social Perspectives - Environmental quality
  • Standard F: Science in Personal and Social Perspectives - Science and technology in local, national, and global challenges

National Social Studies Standards

This activity supports the following National Council for the Social Studies standards.

Middle Grades:

  • Standard I: Culture - a
  • Standard IV: Individual Development and Identity - h
  • Standard VII: Production, Distribution, & Consumption - a, b, f
  • Standard IX: Global Connections - d

High School:

  • Standard I: Culture - a
  • Standard IV: Individual Development and Identity - h
  • Standard VII: Production, Distribution, & Consumption - b, f
  • Standard IX: Global Connections - d

Background

Do your students know what type of fish they may be eating or whether that fish is an overfished species? How important is education in a supply and demand economy?

In recent years, humans have become more and more removed from the process of food production. This is especially true for the younger generation, as production methods have been altered dramatically in the last several decades. Small-scale food production has been replaced by larger-scale industry, and modern technology results in fewer people being employed or connected to the production process.

Consumers make choices regarding fish purchases in stores and restaurants that affect fish populations and environmental quality. This activity helps build understanding of the implications of those choices.


Before You Begin

Make copies of Handout #1, Handout #2, and Handout #3 for each student.


What To Do

  • Ask students what they know about the fish they buy at the store or order in a restaurant. Where does it come from? Is there an abundance of that species?
  • As an in-class introduction, students can brainstorm about the different human relationships with fish (recreational, food source, etc.). Introduce the current issues surrounding fisheries and the concepts of overfishing and sustainability. Also introduce fish farming and review the environmental and health issues associated with many farming practices.
  • Provide copies of handouts #1, #2, and #3 to students. Within groups of 3-5, ask students to develop a research project with detailed fieldwork to answer the following questions:
    • Where is fish sold in your community? (i.e. all supermarkets, seafood restaurants, fish markets, farmers' markets, fast food restaurants, etc.)
    • What type of fish is sold at each type of market?
    • Where does the fish come from? How are they caught? Are they farmed or from the wild?
    • What are the prices of fish - compare both species and locations.
    • What is the most popular fish species?
    • What is the frequency of different fish species in the markets?
    • Which of these species are facing overfishing pressures?

    Design and conduct a survey of fish being sold at markets and restaurants.

    Students can also design a survey and questionnaire to interview customers and sellers in different markets or to interview students in your school. This could yield information about consumer understanding of fish

  • Have groups analyze their collected data and prepare charts and graphs to present their findings to the rest of the class. What conclusions can be drawn from this study, using such factors as pricing, availability, demand, and overfishing threats?
  • Ask students to put themselves in the position of the fisher. Using their conclusions, what choices would they make in order to create the greatest profit?
  • As a group, reflect on these questions:
    • Will knowing more about overfished species change your eating and purchasing habits?
    • Can consumers really have an impact on what is sold?
    • What about the many species for which there is not enough data to judge whether they are overfished or not?
    • Did the students have difficulty getting the information they needed, if so, what does this mean for consumer education?
  • Introduce your students to existing sustainable seafood choices programs. These programs maintain and make accessible information about fish species and the status of their populations. Why are different fish species placed in the different categories? Discuss how these programs can assist with making consumer choices regarding fish purchases in stores and restaurants.

Assessment

Use the group reports to assess students' research design, their use of statistical evidence, and the conclusions they draw to demonstrate mastery of key concepts, including overfishing, fish farming, supply and demand, and consumer choices.


Extensions

  • Develop a consumer education campaign regarding sustainable fisheries.
  • Investigate the impacts of different methods of fish farming and ocean fisheries and conduct a debate on managing these practices for sustainability.

Useful Resources


Credit

“Do You Know What fish You‘re Eating” was created by the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science as part of its Fish Trouble Teaching Guide. For additional information and resources, visit www.rsmas.miami.edu

Activity Handouts

All PDF files require Adobe Acrobat 5 or above. For additional classroom content, please visit PBS TeacherSource.