The Fisheries are in trouble! Protecting the fisheries and their fish populations is a tough job, but someone has to do it. The question is HOW? You have been summoned to the Think Tank to seek possible solutions.

Humans have turned to the sea as a source of food since ancient times. Obesity or being over-weight may be a problem in some countries of the world, but over half of the world's population is undernourished (doesn't get enough to eat). Overall the population is increasing each year. As a result, we think of turning to the sea for help in solving the problem of food supplies.To what extent can the sea help us?

Problem:

Numerous complaints have come in from fishermen/women about the low number of fish in their catches as well as the small size of those they do catch. Researchers studying the migratory patterns, fish counts, growth and age of "tagged" fish say the fishing industry has reason for concern. Researchers also tell us another indication of trouble is that we are finding different species of organisms not normally found in certain feeding areas or an increase in numbers of some normally found in the feeding areas. Read on for some examples.

Evidence:

A Mysterious Tear in the Web of Life

Giant Squids are being found in nets off the Australian coast. Giant Squids are normally found in very deep waters and are seldom seen (except when they die and float up to be washed ashore somewhere). Some ocean researchers believe this is connected with the demise in numbers of the Orange Roughy (fish).

Penguins are increasing to a point of excess in some areas. This is probably due to an abundance in krill that some ocean researchers say is due to a decrease in seal and whale populations.

Sea otters (which are keystone species) are missing off the Alaskan Peninsula. When scientists investigated they found the change in otter population was part of a long cascade of events. How is the otter dilemma linked to the Pollock (fish) population and whales?

Questions that come to mind:

Clearly there is a disruption in the ecosystem and the food chain. How are the fishing industry and those who fish for sport involved in the food chain? What is the main source of energy for the food chain? What does photosynthesis and chemosynthesis have to do with the abundance of fish in the sea? What is meant by a "keystone" species?

Mission:

The World is counting on your team to find a solution before it is too late. Can the destruction or collapse of the fisheries be stopped? Perhaps the questions above can help you in your search for answers. A full report of the problem and suggested solutions is to be presented to the Admiral.

Some suggested resources for information are:

Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch – What's Troubling Our waters? Very student friendly. They also have Seafood Guides listing which fish to buy or order at a restaurant.

Pew Ocean's Commission Report on America's Living Oceans: Charting a Course for Sea Change. They have documents in pdf format that you can download and view if you have Adobe Reader (free software from Adobe).

The Ocean Conservancy Overfishing Scorecard is a large page with lots of useful information. Not very student friendly.

Use the word processor for creating your report. Visuals and/or charts should accompany your work. Use Excel or other similar programs for creating whatever flow charts, graphs, and such needed for your proposal. They will enhance (improve) your grade.

Assessment:

Scientists do not have a "right" answer to this question. You will be judged on the feasibility (possibility of being carried out) of your generated hypothesis (unproven proposition) and the factual support you gather. A proposition is something you propose to do. Does your proposition make sense and seem feasible or possible? What proofs or facts do you have to support your hypothesis?

Lesson Ideas created/adapted by Margaret Hammer (Graduate Research Assistant) and Judith Kenworthy (Technology Mentor Fellowship Associate) Texas A&M University. All comments and questions can be directed to stewart@ocean.tamu.edu

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