Teachers Guide - Fishy Business

"Fishy Business - The Illegal Driftnet Fishery" (Part 3) Documentary Overview

This is the third of the five-part series "Whales of the Mediterranean Sea".

"A Fishy Business -The Illegal Driftnet Fishery", focuses on an indiscriminate and destructive fishery that was banned several years ago. Despite multiple bans, the fishery continues in the Mediterranean Sea, putting populations of migratory fish, sea turtles and cetaceans at risk.

Whale Trackers follow the efforts of the Ocean Ranger, as her crew track down and document the extent of the illegal driftnet fishery. Can the work of Oceana commit governments to act and enforce the legislation in time?

The Program -

  • Takes the viewer behind the scenes of the illegal driftnet fishery in the Mediterranean Sea.
  • Introduces viewers to an illegal fishery that continues to operate 'out of sight and out of mind.'
  • Explains how public demand for swordfish and tuna continue supporting this illegal fishery.
  • Explores the impact of bycatch on marine ecosystems in the Mediterranean Sea.
  • Discovers the true impact of a fishery that kills tens of thousands of unwanted marine species every year.
  • Spends time with scientists, researchers and conservationists who are trying to gain the attention of the public, and commit governments to take action.
  • Questions why this illegal and unsustainable fishery continues despite numerous international and national bans.
  • Reveals the escalating tension between fishers and researchers.
  • Expresses the urgent need for action and the enforcement of existing laws to end the fishery.

Viewing Ideas -

Before Viewing:

  1. Explain to students that as human populations increase, so does our demand for fisheries resources. Talk with students about the increasing number of boats, using increasingly sophisticated technology, to chase fewer and fewer fish. As more stocks are fished to capacity, many are starting to show signs of decline due to overfishing and illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing.
  2. Divide students into pairs. Advise them to take notes throughout the short documentary "Fishy Business", with a specific focus on the following issues and themes
    • Why was driftnetting banned worldwide?
    • What could be the long-term consequences for marine ecosystems in the Mediterranean, and for the people in the region?
    • Why does this obviously destructive and wasteful fishery continue?
    • How can the public pressure governments to enforce existing laws?
    • How are Oceana working to find a solution to the problem, and do you think their tactics can work?

After Viewing:

  1. Give students five minutes to discuss their notes among their classmates, and with their partner.
  2. Class Discussion. Ask students how they feel about illegal fishing.
    • Who, if anyone benefits from the illegal driftnet fishery in the Mediterranean?
    • What are the long-term consequences of bycatch?
    • Do we have a responsibility to maintain and protect marine ecosystems for our own benefit and for future generations?
    • How do you feel about conservation groups doing the work governments should be doing?
    • Is the demand for tuna and swordfish in the Mediterranean Sea compatible with the protection of marine biodiversity?

Classroom Activity -


Students utilize information gathered from 'Fishy Business", from class discussion and from the Internet, to undertake and investigation into the seafood industry. They will determine if there is any means for their family to make sustainable seafood choices within their local area.


  • Computer (Depending on accessibility, students can work independently, in pairs or groups.)
  • Internet access.
  • Guest speaker.


  • Understanding where the fish we buy in local supermarkets, 'fish and chip' shops and restaurants comes from is a responsibility often overlooked. Our choices as consumers dictate the species targeted and the types of gear used to catch them. In this activity, students will investigate the source of seafood in their local area to determine the fisheries practices they and their family are supporting.
  • Students will work in pairs. (Preferably with a student living in the same area)
  • Together, each pair will compile a list of fish species their families consume on a regular basis, and the outlets where they are purchased.
  • Students will work to determine the following:
    • The origin of the fish species they consume. Were they caught locally, nationally, imported from overseas?
    • The status of the population the species was taken from. Are they abundant, vulnerable, threatened, endangered?
    • Were they caught in the wild or farmed?
    • What type of fishing gear was used to catch each species? (Longline, gillnet, purse seine, unknown.)
  • Instruct students to thoroughly research if any information is made public to guide consumers in their seafood selection.
  • From their research, students will develop a 'perspective' on the seafood industry in their local area, while determine their communities ability to select seafood wisely.

Activity Answer -

Students use what they learned about illegal driftnetting in the Mediterranean Sea as a catalyst for a class discussion about consumer choices in their own backyard. Students see the connectedness between consumerism, fisheries practices, and how our seafood selection can assist in supporting sustainable fisheries practices. This activity gives students a real worldview of overfishing and illegal fishing, its causes and its implications. It challenges students to explore and question their own values and responsibilities as consumers, and that of their community.

Related Resources -

Links -

For more information about what you can do to help, look at the following links:

  • OCEANA - www.oceana.org Oceana campaigns to protect and restore the world's oceans, with a specific focus on policy change and enforcement to reduce pollution and to prevent the irreversible collapse of fish populations, marine mammals and other sea life.
  • The Marine Stewardship Council - www.msc.org The Marine Stewardship Council promotes sustainable fisheries practices. Visit the site for help in selecting the best environmental choices in seafood.
  • Blue Ocean Institute - www.blueocean.org Blue Ocean Institute works to inspire a closer relationship with the sea through science, art, and literature. We develop conservation solutions that are compassionate to people as well as to ocean wildlife, and we share reliable information that enlightens personal choices, instills hope, and helps restore living abundance in the ocean.
  • "Fishphone" - www.fishphone.org An initiative of the Blue Ocean Institute. This is a mobile phone formatted webpage designed to provide easy navigation and download capability for environmentally conscious and tech-savvy cell phone and PDA users. FishPhone helps restaurant patrons, supermarket shoppers and chefs make healthy, informed, and sustainable choices when deciding which fish is right for them—and the environment.
  • Monterey Bay Aquarium - Seafood Watch - www.mbayaq.org/cr/SeafoodWatch Browse a list of best seafood choices, or print a Seafood Watch Guide to take with you.
  • Oceans Alive - www.oceansalive.org Oceans alive 'eat smart' program, helps you select seafoods that are caught or farmed responsibly. guide can help you choose fish that are healthy for the oceans and safe to eat.
  • WWF - www.panda.org WWF is a global environmental organization. Their mission is to to stop the degradation of the planet's natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature.
  • Delphis Mediterranean Dolphin Conservation - www.delphismdc.org A non-profit organization for the welfare of Mediterranean dolphins in Ischia, Italy.
  • PBS - Voyage of the Odyssey - www.pbs.org/odyssey A five-year global expedition studying sperm whales. Read the Odyssey logs by Chris & Geneveive Johson in the 'Track the Voyage' section to learn about sperm whale evolution and ecology, whaling history, scientific research, acoustics and challenges faced by the crew.

Classroom Application -

The 'Fishy Business' Activity Program is specifically directed at Grades 9 - 12 biology, geography, oceanography, environmental education, and IT studies. Lateral thinking allows activities encompassing cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises) and other marine megafauna to link into a wide range of secondary curriculum areas. An awareness of other animals, particularly the study of charismatic keynote species, is crucial for students to learn about the issues involved in conservation and how the choices we make affect the world around us. Learning about the lives of other animals changes our world view, fostering a sense of responsibility and encourages action. The topic of cetaceans fits most obviously into the science learning area. However, there is ample opportunity to incorporate cetaceans into the geography, English and art frameworks.

Genevieve Johnson has taught middle and high school students in the area of Environmental Education for over 12 years. She has also spent five years as a cetacean field researcher on an around the world science and education expedition. As well as teaching in a classroom, Genevieve designed the 'Class from the Sea' and 'Ocean Encounters' programs, designing curriculum and linking with students around the globe from the research vessel.