Initial Publication Date: August 12, 2008 | Reviewed: November 25, 2019

Are You Going to Eat That?

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

Summary and Learning Objectives

Students begin this investigation with an introduction to the types of fishing gear and how its use has changed over time. Students learn about irresponsible fishing practices and methods that can be used to make fishing more sustainable. They then watch a short video produced by PBS FlipSide Science, 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.

Open the Student Lab »

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 to three 50- to 60-minute class periods plus time outside of class for students to complete their research projects. Part A and Part B will each take approximately one class period depending on what is done in class and what is assigned as homework or pre-class reading/viewing. 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 third 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 learn about different types of fishing gear and then look at a graph to see how the use of gear has changed since 1950. They watch several short videos and read short articles and information pages on bycatch and several technologies that have been or are in development to reduce certain types of bycatch. They will also learn about Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) fishing.

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, which describes the guidelines used by the Seafood Watch Program to make seafood recommendations, is a downloadable pdf. The second reading, about fish mislabeling, is available for students to read online.

Students are also asked to compare three seafood guides. You may want to print and photocopy the Seafood Watch guide for your region prior to class. The other two guides, Environmental Defense Fund Seafood Selector and FishChoice, are for use online.

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. The 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 how students will create their presentations (e.g. PowerPoint, 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

Content Extension

The Great Fish Swap NPR Fresh Air podcast. One-third of the seafood Americans catch is sold abroad, but most of the seafood we eat is imported and often of lower quality. Author Paul Greenberg explains why. Originally broadcast July 1, 2014.