Let's get fish smart

Lesson overview

This lesson turns to life in the ocean rather than the habitat approach in previous lessons and examines the issue of overfishing and the impact of different fishing techniques.

Learning outcomes
  • Recognise fish as a food source
  • Consider our role in overfishing
  • Debate the benefits and disadvantages of different fishing methods
  • Discuss how to sustain and protect marine environments

See the Fact Sheet All about overfishing for background information on the issue.

Lesson steps

1. Introduction to the lesson (5 mins)

Use slides 2 to 5 to connect to the previous lesson’s learning if you have taught this, then­ introduce the learning objectives to the class. Connect this lesson to previous learning through the idea of carbon in the ocean being stored not only in habitats but also in fish and other life that is caught for seafood.

2. Seafood quiz (10 mins)

This section sees if students can make the connection between sea life and seafood. Hand out copies of the Student Sheet Seafood quiz to pairs of students. Showing slides 13 to 18, see how much students know about the sea life that is commonly eaten. Students should not worry about getting all the answers right, as this activity may just show that there is a disconnect with our treatment of the sea as an infinite larder. This is one of the issues that the ocean faces, in terms of ‘out of sight, out of mind’.

As you review the quiz using slides 19 to 24, continue to make the point that all the seafood that we eat was once a wild animal (although aquaculture, seafood farming, is on the rise and much of the salmon and many of the shrimp and prawns that students eat may now come from fish farms).

3. Fishy figures (10 mins)

The scale of fish consumption is the focus of the next lesson step, taking the humble cod-based fish fingers as a unit. Depending on the ability of your class pose the question on slide 26 and see if students can work out the answer, or use the more scaffolded approach on the Student Sheet Fishy figures.

Review students’ calculations using slides 27 to 29, and ask students what they think about the final answer of the nearly 4 million cod needed to keep every primary school student in the UK happily fed with fish fingers once a week.

Note: the figures have been simplified to make the calculations easier.

4. Fishing methods ranking (20 mins)

This section of the lesson then looks at how all these fish may be caught and the impacts that fishing techniques may have on sea life and ocean habitats. Hand out the fishing method cards on the Student Sheet to groups of four students. Students may need help cutting these out.

Review the criteria that will be used for evaluating the different fishing methods using slides 32 to 35, and then explain the different fishing methods using slides 36 to 40. Students can be selected to read the information to the whole class for each of the cards.

For clarity, the rankings from one to five for each of the criteria shows:

  • Effectiveness: low = requires a lot of effort to catch fish; high = more fish can be caught with less effort.
  • Profitability: low = fishers may make less money using this technique; high = fishers can make more money using this technique.
  • Habitat damage: low = has little impact on ocean habitats; high = has a large impact on ocean habitats.
  • Bycatch: low = few or no other types of ocean life are caught; high = lots of other types of ocean life are caught, injured, or killed.

Students work through the three ranking exercises to show how different views of how we should treat the sea are sometimes in balance and sometimes in conflict. Slide 41 provides prompts. Have students share their rankings and give reasons for their answers as a mini-review after each scenario.

Ask students to consider how these views might be balanced using slide 41 as a review of this section.

5. Taking action (15 mins)

The final stage of the lesson looks at some actions that can be taken at different scales: personal, school, and national (government). Environmental action lessons can place an over-emphasis on individual action, where others can be more responsible for an environmental issue. Slide 44 touches on this point and also seeks to shift the blame and burden for positive change to those with more responsibility.

As a class work through the different options on the Student Sheet Plenty more fish in the sea (please) to see which actions the students wish to take. Individual pledges may be made within the lesson while holding meetings with school leaders or canteen operators, as well as letter writing will most likely require additional time.

Conclude the lesson with affirming what actions the class will take to keep the smiling ray happy!