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All Caught Up: Bycatch

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Bycatch is a serious problem for many marine fisheries. In this engineering challenge focused on fisheries and conservation, students learn about bycatch and then design fishing nets that will maximize catch of a target species while minimizing bycatch. We’ll test the nets in a fishing competition, then redesign them to improve performance.  Discussion will include examples drawn from fisheries management.

Alignment with Next Generation Science Standards

*Additional Resources for Teachers: 

This relatively simple bycatch activity designed by educators at Seaworld uses paper fish, lawn rakes, and paperclip-magnet fishing poles to compare bycatch rates between different types of fishing gear. 


This activity from the California Academy of Scientists is initially similar to Catch of the Day (above), but with the added element of fishery depletion over time.  Students may enjoy the more complicated game aspects (with options to raid other groups’ oceans when their own become depleted). 


  • NOAA Bycatch Reduction Engineering Program (BREP)

Students take a closer look at ongoing bycatch reduction research funded through NOAA Fisheries’ BREP program. They will gain familiarity with the program by reading the 2015 report to congress and filling out a worksheet on different types of research projects.  Then, they’ll examine a list of project abstracts from the 2017 program and choose one that they think is worthy of funding.  Teachers may elect to have students present and defend their choices to the class.

NOAA BREP Activity Overview

BREP Report to Congress 2015

BREP Abstracts 2017

*These are supplementary activities that can be used before or after Project Oceanology programs, designed to help teachers integrate their Project Oceanology experiences into the curriculum.

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