Are You Going to Eat That?

The lab activity described here was created by Erin Bardar of TERC for the EarthLabs project.

Summary and Learning Objectives

Students begin this investigation by browsing through an interactive seafood menu that points out several of the irresponsible fishing practices employed by the seafood industry. They then watch a short movie produced by the Worldwatch Institute, which outlines some tips for becoming a more responsible seafood consumer. The investigation culminates with students conducting an independent group research project exploring the availability of sustainable seafood in their community.

After completing this investigation, students will be able to:

  • describe multiple types of irresponsible fishing practices contributing to the collapse of currently fished seafood;
  • identify sustainable seafood available in their community; and
  • make responsible seafood choices.
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Context for use

After completing Lab 1: Plenty of Fish in the Sea?, students should be familiar with the dire projections for the sustainability of currently fished seafood. Lab 2: Are You Going to Eat That?, is intended to educate students about the irresponsible fishing practices that are contributing to the destruction of the world's fisheries. It is also aimed at teaching students about the power they have to enact change in the seafood industry by making responsible choices in their own seafood consumption and demanding change in their community.

The entire investigation requires two 50-60 minute class periods plus time outside of class for students to complete their research projects. Part A takes approximately 10-15 minutes for students to read through the interactive seafood menu and watch the short video. Part B will take the remainder of the class period for students to download and compare sustainable seafood guidelines and recommendations. Part C of the activity is to be done as a group research project, conducted by groups of 2-5 students outside of class. Students should be given several days to complete their research and compile their results. A second class period is needed to allow students to present their results to the class. Alternatively, this part of the activity can be adapted as a class field trip to a local market or restaurant.

Activity Overview and Teaching Materials

For Part A, students watch the video "The end of fish?", which provides tips about responsible seafood consumption. Students then explore the World Wildlife Foundation/Marine Stewardship Council interactive seafood menu. As they flip through the pages, students are introduced to several types of irresponsible fishing practices employed by the seafood industry. In order to view both the video clip and the menu, student computers must be equipped with the Adobe Flash Player.

In Part B, students explore how seafood recommendations are developed, and compare seafood guides published by various conservation organizations. There are two readings that accompany this portion of the activity. The first reading, "Harnessing Consumer Power for Ocean Conservation" is available for students to read online. The second reading, which describes the guidelines used by the Seafood Watch Program to make seafood recommendations, is a downloadable pdf. To view this file, student computers must be equipped with Adobe Reader.

Students are also asked to compare three seafood guides. It is recommended that you print and photocopy these guides prior to class. If you wish to avoid printing altogether, contact Seafood Watch, Environmental Defense Fund, and The Safina Center directly to request hard copies of pocket seafood guides.

After comparing and contrasting the seafood guides, students are asked to explore NOAA's FishWatch website. Divide the class into small groups and assign each group to research one of the species listed on the FishWatch site. Each group should prepare a short presentation of the information they found about their assigned species. After the presentations have been made, lead a class discussion about what the students discovered, and have the class work together to rank the species of fish each group researched from most to least sustainable under current conditions.

In Part C of the Investigation, students work in groups of 2-5 to conduct independent research projects about the availability of sustainable seafood in their home community. This majority of this portion of the activity will take place outside of class.

Printable Materials

Teaching notes and tips

Begin the investigation with a class discussion of students' personal seafood consumption habits and whether or not they have ever seen sustainable seafood labels on fish at their local market, have seen a seafood recommendation guide, or given any thought to where their seafood comes from or how it is caught.

As students compare and contrast seafood guides published by various research and conservation groups (Part B), engage them in a discussion about reliable sources of information and data on the web.

In Part B, students are asked to prepare short presentations about the fish species' assigned to their groups. Decide in advance if students will create their presentations using Power Point or on poster paper, and gather the appropriate materials.


The following rubric may be a helpful tool for assisting in the of grading student reports.

State and National Science Teaching Standards

Additional Resources

Background Information

  • WWF Report: Fish Dish"exposing the unacceptable face of seafood (Acrobat (PDF) 1.5MB Jun28 07) This report published by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), provides detailed information about some of the destructive and wasteful fishing practices behind the popular European seafood dishes included in the interactive seafood menu.

Content Extension