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Should we farm fish and seafood?

Fish farm in Norway

Fish farm in Norway (LTapsaH, Pixabay)

Fish farm in Norway

Fish farm in Norway (LTapsaH, Pixabay)

How does this align with my curriculum?

In this case study, students will explore the benefits and concerns about aquaculture.

Objectives

After completing these activities, students should be able to:

  • Describe some pros and cons of aquaculture;
  • Discuss the complexities involved in developing an aquaculture farm; and
  • Recognize the different aspects (economic, social, environmental) involved in creating a sustainable solution to environmental issues.

Setting the Stage 

Aquaculture is the breeding of aquatic animals and plants for food. In recent years, aquaculture has become an excellent example of the issues and complexity related to sustainable development. As the human population increases, there is increased pressure on food production. As a result, the demand for seafood also continues to grow and aquaculture is becoming increasingly important as an alternative to traditional fisheries. In fact, the aquaculture industry has grown enormously over the last five decades and now provides more than half of the fish we eat. With this expansion has come a range of sustainability concerns related to the environmental and social impact of seafood production.

Seafood production wild fish capture vs. aquaculture
Seafood production: Wild fish catch vs. Aquaculture (Source: Our World In Data)

Did you know?

Aquaculture exists in almost every country in the world. In 2018, Canada produced 1 million tonnes of fish and 28% of this value came from aquaculture

This lesson is divided into 4 sections.

  1. In the first section, Activating prior knowledge, students will be asked to reflect on what they already know about seafood and aquaculture.
  2. This is followed by the first activity in which students will learn about different perspectives on the topic, from representatives of the industry and environmentalists. This will help define the issues at hand with this industry. Alternatively, students can read an article that presents both issues and solutions. This first learning activity is done individually.
  3. Once students have compiled information from these sources, the whole class collaborates in Activity 2 to establish the list of issues related to aquaculture, and categorize them into social, economic and environmental issues. This list of issues will inform the co-elaboration of criteria by students for the third activity.
  4. Activity 3 represents the main part of the case study, which consists of proposing an aquaculture project in the student’s community. Finally, students are encouraged to read career profiles of people working in the aquaculture industry to identify possible alignment with their career plans. Students could then select one career profile that could be used as a role-playing inspiration for the oral presentation of the project. 

Materials & Preparation 

  • Computers or tablets with internet access (a minimum of one device for a group of 3 students)
  • Images that could be shown in class [Google Slides] [PDF]
  • Pros, Cons, Solutions Organizer reproducible [Google doc] [PDF]
  • Student Workbook reproducible [Google doc] [PDF]
  • Optional: Aquaculture - Issues and Solutions Board [Google Jamboard]

What To Do 

Activating prior knowledge - Class discussion (15 - 20 minutes)

This lesson is best started by having a discussion with students. You can introduce the topic by having students watch the video below.

Will the ocean ever run out of fish? (2017) by TedEd (4:27 min.).

Below is an example of a question sequence that you can use with students. It can be used as is, or edited to suit your needs. This will allow students to share what they already know with other classmates and to identify what is needed to learn in order to understand the topic of aquaculture.

Me & My Community

Students could look at the image below while they answer the questions.

Assortment of fish and seafood
Assortment of fish and seafood (Source: AlexRaths via iStockphoto).
  • Do you like fish? Why or why not? What about seafood?
  • What is the difference between fish and seafood?
  • How many times a week do you eat fish or seafood?
  • Why do people eat fish? (E.g., because they like how it tastes, because it is a good source of protein, because it is readily available, because it is a historical source of food, etc.)
  • Do you think people in other parts of Canada eat more or less fish than you do? Why? (E.g., local resource availability, prices depending on proximity, etc.)
  • What about other countries? How much fish do you think they eat? Why?
  • Which country do you think eats the most fish? Why? 
Capture Fisheries 

Students could look at the image below while they answer the questions.

Fishing nets and fisherman on a trawler
Fishermen haul a fish net from the deck of a trawler (Source: shaunl via iStockphoto).
  • What are some of the different ways people use to catch fish? (E.g., fishing line, nets, trawling, etc.)
  • What issues or problems do you think exist with this way of fishing? (E.g., overfishing affecting wild populations; fishing methods affecting other species and the environment; abandoned nets and other sources of plastic in the environment; increasing demand; unemployment, employment seasonality, and deserted villages because of fishing bans; illegal fishing (mostly other countries); etc.)
  • What solutions exist or have been tried to solve these issues or problems? (E.g., bans, quotas, better technique, marine reserves, aquaculture, etc.). 
Aquaculture 

Students could look at the image below while they answer the questions.

Aerial view fish farm
Aerial view of a large fish farm with circular aquaculture pens (Source: Daniel Balakov via iStockphoto).
  • What does aquaculture mean?
  • Is the same as? Why or why not?
  • How does a fish farm operate?
  • What issues or problems do you think exist with this way of harvesting fish? 

After this discussion, you can let students know that this case study will focus on aquaculture as a sustainable solution to traditional capture fisheries and will consider this topic from different perspectives.

Activity 1: Introduction to Different Perspectives (Individual activity, 30 minutes)
  1. In order to guide student reflection during this introductory activity, tell them that the ultimate goal of this project is to propose a new aquaculture project in their community. In order to propose a viable, sustainable project, they will need to better understand the scientific aspects, especially in regards to the environmental impacts, without neglecting the social and economic aspects.
  2. This activity will help introduce the controversy behind the industry and initiate a deeper reflection. You can choose to have students either:
    1. Read the article Farmed salmon vs. wild salmon by Let’s Talk Science or
    2. Watch the videos: The Problem with Farmed Salmon (2013), which is a report by Global 3000 interviewing the environmentalist, Dr. Alexandra Morton (6:58 min.) and What is aquaculture and why do we need it? (2019) about why the world needs aquaculture by the Global Seafood Alliance (3:06 min).
      ​​​
    3. The reading/viewing time is about the same. Alternatively, you could assign half the class to do Option A and the other half to Option B. Each group would then share their learning through class discussion and presentation.
  3. Following the reading or viewing, students should complete the Pros, Cons, Solutions Organizer reproducible. Encourage students to take notes as the information will be used in the following activity. If using Option B, provide students with a few minutes after each video to finish filling in the form.
  4. Optional: Students can add additional aspects that might not have been covered in the videos by referring to this list from PBS.
Activity 2 - Collaborative list of issues (as a class, 45 minutes)
  1. Once students have finished making their notes, use these to make a class list of the key issues involved. This list will be used as a basis to establish the criteria for their own aquaculture project. Separate the issues listed into each of the different aspects of the problem: social, environmental and economic. The list needs to be accessible to all students. Saving a copy is good practice at this point.
  2. This activity can be done in various ways.
    1. In-person using a board and post-it notes of different colors. In a shared classroom, you will need to have the results photographed and shared to make them accessible past this period. Alternatively, this could be done through a class discussion in which you record the issues in the relevant columns of a table and students make copies in their notebooks.
    2. Online using a Google Jamboard and notes of different colors. This can be done synchronously (done in class with students) or given as homework. Note that the latter will need to involve a cleanup of the Jamboard to remove duplicates.
  3. The list of issues can be added to during the course of the project. The solutions and advantages listed will offer insights into what needs to be addressed in a sustainable aquaculture project. However, it is to be expected that students will need to do more research to integrate those solutions into their own project. The issues listed will be used by students in the next activity and thus need to be accessible to all students. Saving a copy is good practice at this point.
Activity 3 - Our Aquaculture Project (groups of 2-4 students, 2-6 hours, depending on project complexity)

The objective of this activity is to propose a new aquaculture business in the student’s community (local, provincial/territorial) that aims to reduce environmental issues and stress on wild populations. As this project lends itself perfectly to a multidisciplinary approach, different criteria categories are presented to help in adapting to the curriculum alignment needs at hand. You can build your own assessment rubrics with the help of those categories and adapt them to your needs and student capacities.

The proposed project can be presented using a visual support decided by and/or the students. Teachers can decide on the formats to offer or allow students to choose their format themselves. For example, a visual support could be a 3D model (digital or physical), a poster, a digital presentation or any other format deemed acceptable for assessment purposes.

The proposed project must satisfy the success criteria listed below. The Student Workbook reproducible can be used to help structure student research.

Main Criteria

Below is a list of criteria that can be adapted to suit your curriculum and assessment needs. The student workbook integrates these but the order is different, to reflect the research and presentation sequence. 

Students will:

  • Decide whether their proposed aquaculture venture will be land-based or water-based.
  • Support the decision for their preferred aquaculture model (land-based or water-based) providing two reasons for their choice.
  • Name the species they have chosen for their aquaculture venture and explain why they chose it, including:
    • Basic facts on the species:
      • Common name
      • Scientific name
      • Taxonomy
      • Distribution
      • Diet
    • Evidence of why it is an important species for human consumption (supported with numerical evidence)
    • Evidence of successful breeding anywhere else in the world (to make sure it is feasible)
  • Select from the class list of issues (completed in activity 2) and demonstrate how the project addresses:
    • 2 Environmental issues
    • 1 Economic issues
    • 1 Social issues

My Community Criteria

Students will need to consider their own community’s status in regards to:

  • Social factors: employment, choice of location
  • Economic factors: avoiding competition with existing businesses, using local resources.
  • Environmental factors: resource attainment (food, materials), disposal of waste

Science Criteria

Presentation of the project should also include information about:

  • The lifecycle of the selected species, and how those different steps are managed in the aquaculture venture.
  • Factors that could impact the species’ ability to breed successfully (E.g., habitat, lifecycle seasonality, etc.).
  • How the basic needs of this species are met in a sustainable way.
  • How waste is managed in a sustainable way.
  • How water use is managed in a sustainable way.

Depending on time available, projects can be presented in class or exhibited in the school. The next optional activity also invites students to do an oral presentation on their project.

Activity 4 (optional): Careers in Aquaculture and Fisheries

An ideal way to complement this project is to link it to career development. Students can be asked to do an oral presentation of their project and use role-playing to illustrate a particular perspective. The career profiles below can be used as inspiration. Students can be asked to skim over a few profiles to help them choose a profile that suits their interests. You may choose to assess how well the perspective was used in the presentation.

Details

Downloads

Downloads

Student Suggested Resources

Canadian Aquaculture Industry Alliance
This website presents statistics and information about the aquaculture industry in Canada.

Cedar Crest Taylor
This YouTube channel presents different videos of operations in the Cedar Quest Taylor trout farm in Ontario.

Mowi Canada West
This YouTube channel presents different videos of operations of a salmon farm in British Columbia.

Acffa
This YouTube channel presents different videos of operations in Atlantic salmon farms.

Ontario Aquaculture Research Centre
This YouTube channel presents different videos of research and researchers in aquaculture.

Lobster and aquaculture: Studying interactions on Canada’s East Coast (2017)
This video (5:09 min.) from the government of Canada focuses on lobster aquaculture.

What Is Aquaculture and Why Do We Need It? (2019)
This article is from the Global Seafood Alliance.

Salmon On Land: Investing In A Multi-billion Dollar Future
This PDF document by Seachoice advocates for land-based aquaculture over open-net sea based ones.

13 Intense Aquaculture Pros and Cons (2021)
This article by Ablison Energy presents some pros and cons of aquaculture.

Student Suggested Resources

Canadian Aquaculture Industry Alliance
This website presents statistics and information about the aquaculture industry in Canada.

Cedar Crest Taylor
This YouTube channel presents different videos of operations in the Cedar Quest Taylor trout farm in Ontario.

Mowi Canada West
This YouTube channel presents different videos of operations of a salmon farm in British Columbia.

Acffa
This YouTube channel presents different videos of operations in Atlantic salmon farms.

Ontario Aquaculture Research Centre
This YouTube channel presents different videos of research and researchers in aquaculture.

Lobster and aquaculture: Studying interactions on Canada’s East Coast (2017)
This video (5:09 min.) from the government of Canada focuses on lobster aquaculture.

What Is Aquaculture and Why Do We Need It? (2019)
This article is from the Global Seafood Alliance.

Salmon On Land: Investing In A Multi-billion Dollar Future
This PDF document by Seachoice advocates for land-based aquaculture over open-net sea based ones.

13 Intense Aquaculture Pros and Cons (2021)
This article by Ablison Energy presents some pros and cons of aquaculture.

Learn More

Underwater farms vs. climate change (2019)
This video by TedEd (4:31 min.) introduces aquaculture, along with its main issues and solutions.

The Future of Ocean Farming: Innovations in Aquaculture (2019)
This video (4:06 min.) by the U.S. Government presents some of the ways American aquaculture is using technology and science to become more sustainable.

A Short History of Aquaculture Innovation (2020)
This page from Hakai Magazine presents the history of aquaculture and recent innovations.

Where does seafood come from?
This article from the Monterey Bay Aquarium discusses the impacts of wild-caught seafood vs. aquaculture.

The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture: Meeting the Sustainable Development Goals (2018)
This document, from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, has a wealth of information about the fisheries and aquaculture sector.

Learn More

Underwater farms vs. climate change (2019)
This video by TedEd (4:31 min.) introduces aquaculture, along with its main issues and solutions.

The Future of Ocean Farming: Innovations in Aquaculture (2019)
This video (4:06 min.) by the U.S. Government presents some of the ways American aquaculture is using technology and science to become more sustainable.

A Short History of Aquaculture Innovation (2020)
This page from Hakai Magazine presents the history of aquaculture and recent innovations.

Where does seafood come from?
This article from the Monterey Bay Aquarium discusses the impacts of wild-caught seafood vs. aquaculture.

The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture: Meeting the Sustainable Development Goals (2018)
This document, from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, has a wealth of information about the fisheries and aquaculture sector.