} CAS: Teachers - Academy Seafood Market and Fishery

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Anytime Lesson Plan: Academy Seafood Market and Fishery


In this at home lesson, students will learn to understand why choosing sustainable seafood is important. Students will then use their seafood watch cards when they go shopping.


In this lesson, you and your students will:

  1. learn the difference between sustainable and unsustainable seafood.
  2. learn to choose ocean-friendly seafood choices through the Seafood Watch Program of Best Choice, Good Alternative, and Avoid.
  3. learn why some animals end up as bycatch and sustainable fishing practices to prevent this from happening.


  • bilingual (English and Spanish) Seafood Plates and Labels
  • popsicle sticks
  • clay or playdough
  • tape or gluestick
  • bilingual (English and Spanish) Seafood Signs
  • fishing tools:
    • plastic scooper, scoop colander, or toy shovel to symbolize seining (a large net dragged through the water).
    • chopsticks to symbolize your typical line and hook fishing; the most sustainable. 
    • combs or plastic toy rakes to symbolize dredging (nets dragged along the sea floor).
  • plastic fish and sea toys to represent both seafood and bycatch
  • cups or small containers to collect students’ “catch of the day”
  • tulle fabric or felt (any color)
  • Seafood Watch guides


  • sustainability:  One of the most oft-cited definitions of sustainability is the one created by the Brundtland Commission.  The Commission defined sustainable development as development that “meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
  • extinction: When the last individual of a particular species dies
  • bycatch: Any fish or other organism that is unintentionally caught. These items are often wasted.
  • longline: Utilizes a central fishing line that can range from one to 50 miles long; this line is strung with smaller lines of baited hooks, dangling at evenly spaced intervals. Can be set near the surface to catch pelagic fish or laid on the sea floor to catch deep dwelling fish. Many lines, however, can hook bycatch that are attracted to the bait.
  • trap and pots: Submerged wires or wood cages that attract fish with bait and hold them alive until fishermen return to haul in the catch. Traps and pots are usually placed on the ocean bottom and generally have lower unintended catch and less sea floor impact than mobile gear like trawls.
  • trawling: Nets towed at various depths to catch fish or shellfish. Trawl nets, which can be as large as a football field, are either dragged along the sea floor or midway between the floor and the surface. Bottom trawling can result in high levels of bycatch.
  • dredging: Involves dragging a heavy frame with an attached mesh bag along the sea floor to catch animals living on or in the mud or sand. It can damage the seafloor by scraping the bottom and also often results in significant bycatch.
  • purse seining: Establishes a large wall of netting to encircle schools of fish. There are several types of purse seines and, depending on which is used, some can catch other animals.



Tell students they are going to explore the practice of choosing sustainable seafood and its importance during a two part activity: first as a fisherman and then as a consumer. Before you begin, ask what sustainable seafood means to them. You may want to briefly define it. “Sustainable seafood is caught in a way which does not harm the environment or the overall population.”


Academy Seafood Market

  1. Create 16 little squares out of clay or playdough.
  2. Print one set of Seafood Signs single-sided and cut out each label.
  3. Tape or glue your Seafood Signs onto popsicle sticks. Then, place the other end of each popsicle stick into a square of clay.
  4. Print the Seafood Plates and Labels, double sided, so that the image of a fish is on the front and its label is on the back.
  5. Cut the Seafood Plates and Labels out to look like plates. Spread them across the table along with their fish labels.
  6. Print out seafood watch guides

Fishing Activity

  1. Lay out a piece of flexible fabric such as tulle or felt on another table next to the Academy Seafood Market activity. This will symbolize your seafloor.
  2. Select different types of fishing methods for the fishing activity.
  3. Get as many “fishing tools” as you’d like for this portion of the activity. A variety is best, but have chopsticks handy as this represents the most sustainable fishing method.
  4. Decorate your fabric with an assortment of fish toys and other sea toys.
  5. You may want to divide the class into groups depending on the number of students and supplies you may have.


  1. Divide your students into groups of 6-8.
  2. Explain the game rules:
    • Each student will be a “fisher” using different fishing tools for the first part of this activity. (It is fine to have multiple students using the same type of tool.)
    • The goal is to catch only seafood that they can sell at the Academy Seafood Market, but students cannot put any unwanted “bycatch” back into the “ocean”.
    • Students will collect their “catch of the day” by placing it in their cups.
  3. Give each student a cup and a fishing tool.
  4. Remind students that all fishers fish at the same time and must wait for a signal to start fishing.
  5. Give students 20 seconds to fish. You can participate as well by using chopsticks. Once time runs out have students observe their “catch.”
  6. Have students discuss what they think is the best fishing method.   
  7. Introduce the concept of bycatch.  This is a great time to help them understand that while some methods might have more “catch,” the hook-and-line (represented by the chopsticks) didn’t harm other animals thru the fishing process as the other fishing tools did.
  8. Students can then visit the Academy Seafood Market and become the “consumer” where they get a chance to see whether their favorite seafood is ocean-friendly or sustainably caught.
  9. Ask students, “What’s your choice of seafood for dinner tonight?” Once students have made their decisions, they can flip their fish plate over to reveal whether they have made an ocean friendly, sustainable choice.
  10. Have the students read the back of their plates to read more information as to why or why not their choice is sustainable. The back of the plates are titled: Best Choice, Alternative, and Avoid.
  11. Once all the students have had a turn you can provide them with Seafood Watch cards and allow them to use it as a guide when selecting their dinner choice.


Discuss the following questions:

  • How does your fishing method differ from others?
  • Why was hook-and-line (represented by the chopsticks) the best fishing method in comparison to the others?
  • What happens to the unwanted bycatch?
  • Did any of the fishing methods we used today affect the seafloor? What do you think this means?
  • What alternatives can I eat if my choice is in the “Avoid” category?  Give alternatives as shown on the back of the plates.
  • What can we do when we purchase seafood?
    • Use the Seafood WATCH guides to help you select ocean friendly seafood options.
    • Read the labels on the packaging to find out where your seafood comes from and how it was caught.
    • If you can’t find the answers, ask!
  • Encourage students’ families to make sustainable seafood dinners with these sustainable seafood recipes: http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/cr/cr_seafoodwatch/recipes/default.aspx?c=ln


You may adapt this lesson using our other sustainable seafood lessons:  Banishing Bycatch or Sustainable Fishing in the Philippines.


California Content Standards

Grade Three

Life Science

  • 3d. Students know when the environment changes, some plants and animals survive and reproduce; others die or move to new locations.

Grade Four

Life Science

  • 3b. Students know that in any particular environment, some kinds of plants and animals survive well, some survive less well, and some cannot survive at all.

Grade Seven

Life Science

  • 3e. Students know that extinction of a species occurs when the environment changes and the adaptive characteristics of a species are insufficient for its survival.



The Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program helps consumers make choices for healthy oceans. They indicate which seafood items are "Best Choices," "Good Alternatives," and which ones you should "Avoid” through pocket guides, websites, and mobile apps. Seafood in the “Best Choice” category is abundant, well-managed, and caught or farmed in environmentally friendly ways. Items in the “Good Alternative” are an option, but there are concerns with how these foods are caught or farmed or there are concerns with the health of their habitat due to other human impacts. Take a pass on items in the “Avoid” category for now. They are caught or farmed in ways that harm other marine life or the environment.

Our oceans are increasingly affected by human activities, primarily by the ways we catch and farm seafood. Today, fish and other wildlife populations in the ocean, from turtles to seabirds, are put at risk. Nearly 85% of the world's fisheries are fished to capacity or overfished.  Our seafood choices have the power to make this situation worse or improve it. Some fishing methods, such as purse seining and dredging, catch a significant amount of bycatch, while other methods are more environmentally responsible.   Purse seining, used to catch schooling fish, like sardines, or species that gather to spawn, such as squid, can trap other animals too.  For example, tuna seines are sometimes intentionally set on schools of dolphins. More environmentally friendly methods include trolling, a hook-and-line method that tows fishing lines behind or alongside a boat. Fishermen use a various baits to "troll" for different fish at different depths. This method catches fish that will follow a moving lure or bait, such as salmon, mahi mahi and albacore tuna. Trolling is an environmentally responsible fishing method. Fishermen can quickly release unwanted catch from their hooks since lines are reeled in soon after a fish takes the bait.


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