Did you know that the decisions we make when ordering seafood can impact the health of the ocean? Asking the right questions can help us make more sustainable choices.

About This Video

Grade level: 6-10
Length: 5.5 minutes
​Next Generation Science Standards: MS-ESS3-3, MS-ESS3-4, MS-LS2-3 (PEs); MS-ESS3.C, MS-LS4.D, MS-LS2.B (DCIs); Systems, Energy and Matter (CCCs)
Ocean Literacy Principles: 1h, 5a, 6b, 6d, 6g, 7c

Video Discussion Questions:

  1. What kinds of questions might you want to ask before buying or ordering seafood, and why?
  2. What do you think ‘sustainable’ means? What might sustainable fishing look like?
  3. What does fishing or eating ‘high on the marine food chain’ mean? Is it better to eat ‘lower on the food chain’? Why or why not?
  4. How does pollution (like mercury) move through a marine food chain?
  5. What are different ways that farmed fish are grown and raised? How do they compare?

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Download student vocabulary


Post-Viewing Classroom Activities (grades 6-10):


Asking Questions

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Asking questions is the first step in scientific discovery and understanding. By asking questions your students can better understand how marine ecosystems and food chains function and the impacts humans are having on them.

  • Set up 4-5 giant sticky notes around the classroom. Ask students for 4-5 main ideas from the video, then write one idea at the top of each sticky—for example, 'Eating Lower on the Food Chain'. Underneath the idea write the prompt 'What would happen if...?'
  • Give students 2-5 minutes to walk around the room and write questions on the sticky notes related to each main idea using this prompt. For example, 'What would happen to marine food chains if we consumed all of the bigger fish in the sea?' Choose a few questions to discuss as a class, or have each student choose a question they are most interested in to research further.

Math and Computational Challenges

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Looking for more real-world math? Look no further! After working through these problems, discuss as a class how they relate to sustainable seafood or why they might be important to know:

  • Imagine that a clam accumulates one unit of mercury in its body from the water it lives in. How many units of mercury would a stingray accumulate if it eats 50 clams a day for 10 years, assuming no mercury is lost between the clams and stingray? CCSS MS Math: Ratios & Proportional Relationships, Expressions & Equations
  • How much mercury would a shark accumulate in a year if it eats 5 of the stingrays from the previous problem every month? What about a human that consumes an entire 15-year old shark? Is the build-up of mercury through this food chain linear? Why or why not? CCSS MS Math: Ratios & Proportional Relationships, Expressions & Equations
    • Mercury is toxic to humans.  Using what you learned from this problem, explain why people might want to 'eat lower on the food chain.'

Download and print a student worksheet



Analyzing and Interpreting Data

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One of the ways that we know how our fishing practices have impacted marine species is by doing 'stock assessments,' or collecting data about the abundance of different species and how this has changed over time.

  • NOAA Fisheries Service maintains the Species Information System Public Portal, a user-friendly database of marine stock assessments and other information. Your students can analyze and interpret time series graphs of parameters like abundance and catch for almost 200 different commercially-important fish species.
  • In addition to analyzing graphs, students can use the Mapping Tool to search for and visualize where around U.S. waters there are overfished stocks.  Using the information in this database, hold a Classroom Conference on Sustainable Fishing complete with oral and poster presentations on the status of U.S. fish stocks and what people are doing to protect and sustain these stocks.



Connections to Standards

While this video doesn't necessarily cover the following standards in depth, it is a compelling resource you can use to supplement your curriculum that does.

NGSS Performance Expectations (Grades 6-8)
​MS-ESS3-3: Apply scientific principles to design a method for monitoring and minimizing a human impact on the environment.
​MS-ESS3-4: Construct an argument supported by evidence for how increases in human population and per-capita consumption of natural resources impact Earth's systems.
​MS-LS2-3: Develop a model to describe the cycling of matter and flow of energy among living and nonliving components of an ecosystem.

NGSS Disciplinary Core Ideas (Grades 6-8)
MS-ESS3.C: Human Impacts on Earth Systems
MS-LS2.B: Cycles of Matter and Energy Transfer in Ecosystems
MS-LS4.D: Biodiversity and Humans

NGSS Crosscutting Concepts (Grades 6-8)
Systems and System Models
Energy and Matter: Flows, Cycles, and Conservation

Ocean Literacy Principles
#1: The Earth has one big ocean with many features.
#5: The ocean supports a great diversity of life and ecosystems.
#6: The oceans and humans are inextricably interconnected.
#7: The ocean is largely unexplored.


Healthy Oceans: Browse all materials

The ocean affects everyone. It provides important resources and recreational enjoyment to people around the world and is home to some of the most diverse ecosystems on Earth: coral reefs. But the ocean's resources and biodiversity are under threat from human impacts. What are some local actions we can take to protect our global ocean?


Additional Resources

Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch
Seafood Watch is an easy-to-use seafood guide that will help you choose seafood that’s fished or farmed sustainably.

San Francisco Bay Area Sustainable Seafood Alliance
Wondering where to enjoy sustainable seafood in the San Francisco Bay Area? Check out a list of the San Francisco Bay Area Sustainable Seafood Alliance’s restaurant partners who have taken the pledge to follow Seafood Watch recommendations.

Next Gen Fish Farming
The California Academy of Sciences' Science News team brings you this article about reducing some of the environmental impacts of aquaculture.

Lesson: Sustainable Fishing (grades 4-12)
By using a model for how fishing affects marine life populations, students will construct explanations for one of the reasons why fish populations are declining. They will then work to design solutions for ways of making fisheries more sustainable for the animals and the people who depend on them.

Lesson: How Stable is Your Food Web? (grades 5-8)
Could you describe the kelp forest food web as a system? Your students will design and use a simple model to test cause and effect relationships or interactions concerning the functioning of a marine food web, ranking their hypothetical ecosystems according to their stability when faced with a natural or man-made disturbance.

California Trout: Fish in Hot Water
45% of California’s native salmon, steelhead, and trout will be extinct within 50 years if current trends continue. In this science-based report, learn about which species are in hot water, what is threatening their survival, and how you can help.