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 2016, fish and fishery products reached an estimated first sale value of $232 billion and provided more than 3.2 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 in 2015 the world's fish stocks fished within biologically sustainable levels has decreased to 66.9%, and the percentage of stocks fished at biologically unsustainable levels has increased to 33.1%. The overfished stocks are unlikely to rebound quickly, either, as rebuilding often requires two to three times the species' life span.

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 fisheries management is emerging as the most promising solution for slowing or halting the projected collapse of the seafood industry. The lessons presented in this module 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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