Academic journal article The Science Teacher

One Fish Two Fish Redfish You Fish! A Biological and Mathematical Exploration of Human Impacts on a Recreational Fishery

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

One Fish Two Fish Redfish You Fish! A Biological and Mathematical Exploration of Human Impacts on a Recreational Fishery

Article excerpt

Many students fish recreationally, but how many consider the impact this has on the fishery? Fisheries science is a broad topic that can be difficult to cover in high school classrooms, where time and curriculum constraints are felt by most teachers. However, many high school curricula call for increased focus on environmental science and sustainability. In response, educators seek innovative ways to present complicated environmental topics at appropriate levels for their students.


The recreational fishing activity presented in this article, "One Fish, Two Fish, Redfish, You Fish!" provides a handson, problem-based experience for students; it unites biology, math, economics, environmental policy, and population dynamics concepts. The activity can be completed in one or two class periods with inexpensive, readily accessible materials, and provides adaptive learning opportunities for students.

Further, the One Fish, Two Fish activity allows students to shape environmental policy in a realistic setting and evaluate their peers' work. By focusing on recreational--rather than commercial--fisheries, the activity drives home the connection between students and natural resources and makes an abstract topic more personal.

Common property resources

Fish are both natural resources (i.e., material goods provided by the environment) and renewable resources (i.e., material goods that can replenish their numbers over time). They are also a common property resource. In his essay, "The Tragedy of the Commons," ecologist Garrett Hardin defines this type of resource as one that is owned by no one but used by everyone (1968). His essay states that without restrictions on behavior, people using common property resources will ultimately overharvest (or exhaust) them in what he terms a "tragedy of the commons."

In a tragedy of the commons, multiple individuals acting independently and rationally and considering only their own self-interest will deplete a shared resource even though it is not in anyone's long-term interest. The rationale is that to the individual, in the short term, it makes sense to continue harvesting a common property resource because the negative consequences of doing so are spread among the entire user population in the long term.


Materials for Games 1, 2, and 3.

* one writing utensil per student

* one medium-strength magnet per student (circular,
plastic-coated ones work best)

* 110 paper clips per group of three to five students

* tape

* bag of extra paper clips

* one calculator per group

* one pencil or craftstick per student (for "fishing pole")

* fishing line or yarn

* management tools paper slips

* coastal development scenarios paper slips

* one sheet of large, blue construction paper per

* fishing game data sheet (one per group; see "On
the web")

* safety goggles (for each student)

This concept can be applied to fish. To an individual fisherman, for example, the benefit of taking one more fish exceeds the negative consequences he or she feels from doing so (i.e., having less fish to catch) because these consequences are spread among all fishermen. Though the fisherman will gain a net benefit from harvesting that fish, the user group as a whole will experience a net loss as the fish population declines.

One reason environmental management proves so challenging is that many natural resources are also common property resources (e.g., fish, clean air, clean water), and managing this type of resource involves the collective expertise of economists, biologists, mathematicians, and sociologists alike. The One Fish, Two Fish activity allows students to gain familiarity with common property resources using fish as a model. Acting as environmental managers, they explore ways to prevent a tragedy of the commons from occurring.

The redfish craze

In this activity, red drum (Sciaenops ocellatus), or redfish, provides a concrete example and helps tailor the exercise to students' locations and experiences. …

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