Student Activities

Overfishing and Fisheries Collapses

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Grade Level:
Middle School: Sixth Grade through Eighth Grade


This activity focuses on the recent collapse of marine fisheries across the world due to increased commercial fishing pressures, a result of increased technology coupled with the changing climate of marine environments related to greenhouse gas pollution. Collapsed fisheries include Pacific salmon, Atlantic cod, and Orange Roughy, among others. The collapse of these fisheries has resulted in dramatic shifts in food webs and ecological processes at sea and on terrestrial ecosystems. In addition, it has had major impacts on human coastal communities.

  • Fisheries- A fishery is an eco-region and an associated fish population used for commercial fishing purposes. Examples would be the salmon fishery of Alaska or the cod fishery of Newfoundland.
  • Collapse- When a harvestable species (usually fish) see their population or harvest rate drop to less than 10% of the original figure. It means that harvesting is no longer sustainable and the fish is in danger of economic extinction.
  • Fishfinder sonar- Fishfinder sonar uses sound waves to detect the location of fish, so that they can be harvested. Sound waves are sent from the ship and reflect off the bodies of fish. The time it takes for the sound waves to return to the ship and the angle of return indicate the distance and location of the fish.
  • Fish Farm- A facility used to raise commercially viable fish species from egg to adulthood to sell for the market.
  • Aquaculture- Raising aquatic organisms in contained units for the purpose of producing marketable products. This can include algae, shrimp, oysters, fish, and others.
  • Hatchery- A facility used to rear juvenile fish for the purpose of stocking rivers or lakes, producing fish for commercial fishing activities, or restoring endangered fish populations.


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Last updated: September 30, 2015