This article describes the development of the most detailed map yet of fisheries around the world, which reveals that the industrial fishing industry is gargantuan and is a threat to its own viability. In an associated article Newfoundland cod stocks suffer serious and surprising decline on March 23, the same writer outlines the surprising decline of cod stocks and raises the questions of causes and what is to be done to correct this decline.

Getting Started

Appropriate Subject Area(s):

Environmental studies, world issues, biological sciences

Key Questions to Explore:

  • How large is the intrusion of industrial fishing?
  • What are the implications of this activity?

New Terminology:

Marine Stewardship Council

Materials Needed:

Copies of the articles for the students

Study and Discussion Activity

Introduction to lesson and task:

There has been great disquiet over the declining health of our oceans. Just recently it has been revealed through a new study involving scientists from around the world that there are more than 79,000 tonnes of ocean plastic in a 1.6 million square kilometre area of the North Pacific Ocean. This area, named the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, appears to be 16 times bigger than previous estimates and other studies indicate that the ocean plastics are likely to triple in the next decade. The ocean currents form centres which are calm and this is where the garbage can get trapped, as in the North Pacific Ocean. In these centres large pieces of plastic break down, allowing the plastic to be consumed by marine life.

In addition, excessive fishing is posing a threat to the fish population. As the article points out, more than half the ocean’s surface is blanketed with industrial fishing activity – a good deal of which is unsupervised. This is four times the amount of land used by agriculture. Good management of this marine supply is going to be needed if the sustainability of this important resource is to be maintained. Calls from experts in the field warn that the ocean is quickly reaching its limits through over-exploitation. This lesson will have the students focus on the concern that fishing activities are having on this resource and will aim to increase their awareness of the threat that it poses for the future.

Action (lesson plan and task):

  • Begin the lesson by asking the students if they ever eat fish.
  • Do a rough calculation of the percentage of the class that eat fish.
  • Ask them if they see the fishing industry as an important source of food for the world’s population.
  • Inform them that when explorers first arrived in North America they were overwhelmed by the cod supplies on the Grand Banks of Newfoundland and that this rapidly became a major draw to North America.
  • Inform them that in 1992 the federal government had to declare a moratorium on cod fishing on the Grand Banks because of over-fishing and that that ban lasted over 14 years, putting 40,000 people out of work. It remained closed until 2006 when a one-year experiment reopened fishing.
  • Indicate to them that the focus of the lesson will be on the state of the oceans’ fish resources.
  • Put the students in pairs and give them the article Researchers map massive global footprint to read.
  • Ask the pairs to discuss the article and decide how serious they believe the threat is to this resource.
  • After the pairs have finished their discussion, unite each pair with another pair and have that group discuss their findings.
  • Once this has been completed, have each group of four unite with another group of four and have them repeat the process.

Consolidation of Learning:

  • Once this has been done, have each group of eight report to the class and hold a plenary session to see what similarities exist between groups and to discuss what concerns they have about what they have read and discussed.
Success and Additional Learning

Success Criteria:

  • The students will be able to explain why it is important to have immediate oversight of the fishing industry.

Confirming Activity:

  • Hand out the article Newfoundland cod stocks for reading as homework and ask the students to come to the next class prepared to discuss it.
  • Also, ask the students to consult the website listed below in order to understand the extent of ocean fishing that is occurring.