EarthLabs for Educators > Fisheries

Fisheries Unit Overview

The lab activities in this module were created by Erin Bardar of TERC for the EarthLabs project. Student Pages »

Why Teach about Fisheries?

Fish are a vital part of the economy, food supply, and health of many nations around the world. In 2004, fish and fishery products reached a record $71.5 billion export value, and provided more than 2.5 billion people with at least 20% of their average per capita animal protein intake. However, the global fishing fleet has outgrown what the oceans can sustainably support. The result is that as many as 75% of the world's fisheries are fully exploited, overexploited, or recovering from depletion. Projections indicate that without significant change in fisheries management, there will be a complete collapse of currently fished seafoods within the next 50 years.

Marine ecosystems are complex. Each component of every system performs a specific and important role in maintaining the health of its ecosystem. Poorly managed fishing, inadequate protection of marine environments, pollution, fish farming by-products, and climate change are all placing stress on the marine food chain, from plankton to humans. The symbiotic nature of marine ecosystems requires a holistic management approach that considers all components simultaneously. Management of individual fish species, treated as if they were isolated from the rest of the ecosystem, simply does not work. Educating students about sustainable fishing practices is a valuable step in the development of informed, environmentally responsible citizens capable of restoring one of Earth's most precious commoditiesfish.

Why use this set of lessons?

The sustainability of fisheries is of vital importance to all citizens of the world. Ecosystem-based management is emerging as the most promising solution for slowing or halting the projected collapse of the seafood industry. The lessons presented in this unit on Fisheries expose students to the most current research and management tools in a way that allows them to become active participants in both learning about and conserving marine ecosystems.

Key Questions

Key Questions addressed by this unit include:
  • What is ecosystem-based fisheries management?
  • What factors influence the sustainability of fisheries?
  • What types of tools are used to facilitate ecosystem-based fisheries management?
  • Can the future sustainability of fisheries be predicted?
  • How does global climate change affect fisheries?

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