The Fish Trade

What You Need

The Fish Trade Photo Credit: Clipart.com


To examine the interdependence of global trade in the context of the economic and social aspects of fisheries and aquaculture.


When studying global interdependence within a science literacy context, the purpose is not to promote any particular view of how nations should work together or to suggest what the balance between national interests and global ones should be for the United States or any other nation. Rather, students need to become aware of the growing number of ways in which each nation is part of a larger political, economic, military, environmental, biological, and technological system.


Begin by asking students to discuss seafood products that they like to eat. How often do they eat seafood? How important is it to their diets?

Next, have students use The Fish Trade student esheet to go to and read the briefing on Gutted, an episode of Wide Angle, PBS' international current affairs documentary. Students will be prompted to look for the answers to these questions:

  • According to the article, approximately how many people rely on fish as their primary animal protein source? (1 billion.) Where do most of these people live? (They live in developing countries.)
  • What are some of the changes that have occurred in the international fish trade? (Answers may include the following: global consumption of fish has doubled in the last 30 years; technology has increased fishing beyond coastal areas; and many fish stocks are being depleted.)


Introduce the lesson by saying:"We have read that global consumption of fish has doubled in the last 30 years or so. In fact, people around the world eat more fish than any other type of animal protein. We will look at how fisheries contribute to global food security. We also will examine the increasingly important and complementary role of aquaculture and inland capture fisheries in fish production for human nutrition and poverty alleviation in many rural areas."

Have students use their student esheet to go to and read the following articles from Focus: Fisheries and Food Security on the Food and Agriculture Organization website. Each article is about one page in length. The reading could be assigned as homework, as long as all students have access to the Internet in the school media center.

Give students the The Fish Trade student sheet, which they can use to answer these questions:

  • Name the potential benefits and drawbacks resulting from developing countries taking a larger share of the international trade in fish and fishery products.
      (Benefit: exports earn them valuable foreign exchange. Drawback: the diversion of fish and fish products from local communities and developing regions can deprive needy people, including children, of a traditionally cheap, but highly nutritious food.)
  • What is aquaculture?
      (Aquaculture is the process of growing fish, shellfish, and other aquatic animals and plants in controlled environments.)
  • Has employment in fisheries increased evenly throughout the world? Contrast the growth in low- to middle-income countries to what has happened in industrialized nations.
      (The number of people employed in fishing and aquaculture has been growing steadily in most low- and middle-income countries. The numbers in most industrialized economies have been declining or have remained the same.)
  • Why is fatty fish, such as tuna, mackerel, and sardine, a good choice for the diet of pregnant and lactating women?
      (Because the fish oils in fatty fish are the richest source of a type of fat that is vital to normal brain development in unborn babies and infants.)
  • How much of the world fish catch is consumed by humans? What happens to the rest?
      (About 75 percent of the world fish catch is consumed by humans. The rest is converted to fish meal and oil used mainly as animal feed.)
  • What is the main reason that artisanal fisheries lose a portion of their catch after harvesting?
      (Spoilage of fish at various stages—while still in the boat, at landing, during storage or processing, on the way to market, and while waiting to be sold.)
  • Why do commercial fisheries discard a portion of their fish catch? Why is this a problem?
      (Discarding occurs because many species other than the target ones are often caught. This can be a problem when the discards consist of large numbers of juveniles, which can lead to a reduction of the future number of mature fish.)
  • Describe the fishery export trade relationship between developing and developed countries.
      (Nearly half of the fishery export trade originates in developing countries and is destined largely [85 percent of the total] for developed ones.)

After each student has completed the readings and answered the questions, discuss the answers with the entire class. As part of the discussion, ask students to list all of the reasons why they believe global cooperation is needed to ensure that the fish industry continues to grow.

Introduce this part of the lesson by saying, "We've looked at some of the economic, political, and social issues involved in global fishing and farming. Now we're going to look at some of the projects of the WorldFish Center, a non-profit organization that conducts research on all aspects of fisheries and other living aquatic resources."

Divide the class into groups, and assign each group one of the success stories from the WorldFish Center webpage. Each student in the group should summarize the main idea of the article and list the scientific, economic, and social significance of their assigned story. Then each group should prepare a chart or overhead to share with the class. Allow groups about 15-20 minutes to read the stories and compile their summaries. Then, have each group share its work with the entire class.


To assess the development of ideas about this topic, assign a brief essay (one or two pages) in which each student will present a plausible scenario of what could happen if developing countries and industrialized countries did not cooperate in the managing the earth's aquatic resources. In assessing the students' essays, look for the following:

  • The scenario presented in the essay is focused on the idea of global interdependence as it relates to the fish trade.
  • Supporting ideas and details lend plausibility to the scenario.
  • An awareness of purpose is demonstrated through clear statements.
  • A sense of completeness is demonstrated in the presentation of the scenario.


Have students read the article called "Ornamental aquatic life: what's FAO got to do with it?" This FAO page discusses the potential economic impact of raising and exporting ornamental aquatic organisms. Then, have each student write a one-page essay discussing similarities and differences between the ornamental aquatic industry and the production of fish as food products. Though discussions will vary, students might point out that environmental and economic issues are similar in both industries (i.e., the ornamental aquatic industry can provide trade opportunities for developing nations; sustainable strategies need to be developed to make sure that resources are not depleted; product safety concerns; etc.) and that both can be important sources of income in developing countries.

The National Council on Economic Education and its Economics America program created EconEdLink, a website that integrates current events, economics, and technology into lessons to boost economic literacy. Some EconEdLink resources can be used to extend the ideas in this lesson:

Economagic is a comprehensive page that contains easily available economic time series data useful for economic research. Using this page, students can select, research, and make charts of data on a topic of their choosing that relates to the ideas in this lesson.

Something's Fishy in Scotland is a lesson plan that accompanies the Gutted resource used in the Motivation of this lesson.

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Lesson Details

Grades Themes Project 2061 Benchmarks