Educational Resources Lets Talk Science Challenge participants

A student takes a sample of fish for the Fish Market Survey project

Data Collection for the Fish Market Survey

Fish Market Survey


This is the core activity for the Fish Market Survey Action Project. Students will collect samples of fish from local grocery stores or fish markets and prepare the samples for shipment to the Centre for Biodiversity Genomics in Guelph, Ontario.


Success Criteria

  • Successful submission of samples and data using an online form

Prior Knowledge and Skills

  • Ability to follow directions on an online form
  • Ability to collect and input accurate information


Suggested Timing: 20 minutes plus time outside of class


  • Register your LifeScanner kit on the LifeScanner website.
  • Make a note of the email address and password you used when registering the kit. Students will need this information when they collect their fish samples.
    • Add this information on the first page of Student Sample Collection Checklist.
  • Have a copy of the Class Sampling Plan available to record information.
  • Print four (4) copies each of the Letter to Parents and Guardians and Student Sample Collection Checklist.
  • Explain to the students that they will be going to local grocery stores or fish markets to collect samples of fish. These samples will then be sent to a lab to have their DNA sequences (barcodes) identified.
  • As a class, determine which students will collect the samples. ​​​​​​
    • Each LifeScanner kit contains four (4) sample vials. You can purchase additional kits from the LifeScanner website for $50 each plus tax and shipping. Mark the return envelope of any additional kits with “Let’s Talk Science Fish Market Survey” to make sure your samples are included in the project data.
    • To minimize food wastage, the families of the students collecting fish should be willing to eat the leftover fish not used for the sample.
    • Record these choices on the Class Sampling Plan.
  • Give each student that will be collecting samples a copy of the following documents:
    • Letter to Parents and Guardians. This letter will give parents and guardians more information about the project and outline what is expected of them and their children.
    • Student Sample Collection Checklist. This checklist outlines the steps students need to accomplish and information they need to complete the sample collection and data entry.
  • Each student who will be collecting samples must pick a species of fish to sample from the list of fish species of interest.
    • Ideally, each of the four vials will contain a different species of fish.
    • Record these choices on the Class Sampling Plan and on the student's copy of the Student Sample Collection Checklist
  • Determine where the students will purchase the fish. Each student should try to get their fish from a different retail outlet to ensure good coverage of your area.
    • Record these choices on the Class Sampling Plan and on the student's copy of the Student Sample Collection Checklist
  • On the Class Sampling Plan, leave the "Species" column blank for now. The information will be filled out after the samples are barcoded.
  • Before students go off to collect samples, show them the Fish Sampling Protocol (coming soon).

Purchasing the Fish

  • Students will go to the stores they identified to purchase their chosen fish.
  • Purchasing guidelines:
    • The fish can be fresh or frozen raw fish.
    • The fish cannot be breaded or have any spices or sauce as these ingredients may contaminate the sample.
    • The fish cannot be canned or vacuum-packaged in foil pouches because the packaging process degrades the fish's DNA.

Sample Collection

  • The student will need to record data about the fish while it is still in its original wrapping or packaging. If the packaging has no information on it, students should take pictures of the store display for reference when entering their data online.
  • Students will need to take pictures of the front, back, and side of the fish in its packaging, the price sign/tag and the fish fillet.
  • Students will need the email address and password that were set when the kit was registered to submit their data.
    • You can add this information on the Student Sample Collection Checklist.
  • Each student will need to cut off one small (pea-sized) piece of fish and put it into the vial.
    • You can also find sample collection instructions on the Student Sample Collection Checklist and in the instruction pamphlet that accompanies the LifeScanner kit.

Shipping the Samples

  • Once all the samples have been returned, seal them in the postage-paid envelope and take it to your local post office for mailing. The samples will be sent to the Centre for Biodiversity Genomics at the University of Guelph for analysis.
  • Ship the samples as soon as possible after collecting them to limit bacteria growth.
  • You will be able to see your results on your Dashboard on the LifeScanner website once they have been processed.


  • If equipment is available, the class could bring in extra fish and conduct a DNA extraction, PCR and gel.


Table of Contents

  • Planning
  • Purchasing the fish
  • Sample Collection
  • Shipping the Samples
  • Extensions

Additional Resources

Sustainable Fishing

Sustainable Fish and Seafood - Fisheries and Oceans Canada
This web page from Fisheries and Oceans Canada explains its role in providing Canadians with sustainable fisheries and sustainable aquaculture, and healthy and productive aquatic ecosystems. They also describe their role in Certification and Traceability. (Accessed December 10, 2019).

Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)
The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) is an international non-profit organization that sets standards, does outreach, conducts education programs, works with fisheries, and informs the public about issues around sustainable fishing and seafood. (Accessed December 10, 2019).

Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC)
The Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) is a non-profit organization that with aquaculture producers, seafood processors, retail and foodservice companies, scientists, conservation groups and consumers to recognize and reward responsible aquaculture through the ASC seafood label., to promote best environmental and social choice when buying seafood and to contribute to transforming seafood markets towards sustainability. (Accessed December 10, 2019).

Launched in 2006, SeaChoice was created to help Canadian businesses and shoppers make the best seafood choices. Working in collaboration with the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program (see below), SeaChoice undertakes science-based seafood assessments, provides resources for consumers, and supports businesses through collaborative partnerships. (Accessed December 10, 2019).

Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch®
The Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch® program helps consumers and businesses make choices for healthy oceans. Their recommendations indicate which seafood items are "Best Choices," "Good Alternatives," and which ones you should "Avoid." (Accessed December 10, 2019).

Ocean Wise™
Ocean Wise™ is a Vancouver Aquarium conservation program created to educate and empower consumers about the issues surrounding sustainable seafood. The program works directly with restaurants, markets, food services and suppliers to ensure they have the most current scientific information regarding sustainable seafood and to help them make ocean-friendly buying decisions. (Accessed December 10, 2019).


Life Scanner - How does it work? (2014)
This video references an app which is not used for this project. (3:10 min.)