Mark My Channel

Age 11, group or independent

45 minutes, indoors or outdoors


Examine how seafood moves from the sea to our dinner tables and discuss career opportunities in various marketing channels.


  • Grow Series video
  • fishing line
  • yarn or string
  • tacks or tape
  • five 5" X 7" index cards
  • paper punch
  • channel challenge cases
  • scissors

Get Set

  • View "Grow Series" video.
  • Brainstorm how seafood moves from the sea to our tables.
  • Duplicate and distribute materials.
  • Punch holes in the left and right edges of the 5" sides of the index cards.
  • String the cards by passing the yarn through both holes of each card.
  • Tack or tape the ends of the yarn on a bulletin board or wall.

Go catch

  • Review how seafood moves from the sea to our homes, markets and restaurants.
  • Use cards to illustrate marketing channels. For example, card 1 would be fisher folk, card 2 the processor, card 3 the wholesaler or distributor, card 4 a super- market or restaurant, and card 5 the consumer.
  • Display the channels.
  • Review the care given at each step of the marketing channel to assure quality.
  • Read the channel challenge cases.
  • Review problems that slow or prevent the market channel from flowing smoothly and the ways these problems affect seafood supply.


  • Invite a guest involved in some aspect of seafood marketing, such as fisher folk, manager of a seafood restaurant, or seafood merchandiser of a retail market, to speak about his/her job and the marketing channel it represents.
  • Tour the school foodservice kitchen or a local seafood restaurant's kitchen. If possible, compare a facility that only purchases frozen seafood (i.e. school lunch program or fast food seafood restaurant) to one that purchases fresh seafood.
  • Find out what fish or shellfish they receive, how it has been processed (whole, fillets, steaks, breaded, canned etc.), and how it arrives (fresh, frozen, canned)

Channel Challenge Cases

Case 1 - El Nino

During El Nino, warm water decreases the amount of plankton for such fish as anchovies and sardines to eat. Anchovies and other small fish that feed on plankton are known as bait fish because larger fish eat them. As a result of El Nino, the anchovies and sardines swim farther north than usual to find cooler waters. California halibut also swim farther north to feed on the bait fish. In the waters off southern California, halibut numbers decline.

In past years, most California halibut were caught with gillnets. Gillnets are not allowed in nearshore waters of northern California, and in 1994 a new law prohibits the use of coastal gillnets within three miles of the mainland in southern California. Most of the halibut live within three miles of shore. Therefore, fisherfolk are unable to catch many halibut in northern or southern California.

How will fisherfolk be affected? What will they likely do? How is the processor affected? What happens to restaurants that have California halibut on the menu? What about the availability and/or price of local halibut in the supermarket?

Case 2 - Storm

A severe storm hits southern California. Big ocean swells pound the shoreline and make the surf rough. The winds are strong. The turbulent weather causes mud, sand and silt to cover lobster traps that were set on the ocean floor in shallow water. Usually Toby, a lobster fisherman, is able to check his traps every 48 hours. The storm continues for a week. Toby is unable to go back to sea to check on his traps. Meanwhile, the lobsters move to deep water to escape the pounding surf, away from the area where Toby's traps were set.

How does the increase of sand and silt in the water affect Toby's ability to catch lobster? How does the decrease in the amount of lobster near the traps affect the catch? What effect does the stormy weather have on Toby's business? How does the storm affect the market and market price for lobster?

Case 3 - Volcano Eruption

In 1992 a volcano erupted in Alaska. So much volcanic ash filled the air that jet airplanes flying over Anchorage had engine problems. The major air freight company between the U.S. and Japan stopped flying, and other airlines were afraid to go near the area for several weeks. Seafood exporters were placed on strict shipping limits.

Sea urchins harvested by divers off the California coast are shipped by air to Japan, the world's largest market for sea urchin roe. California is one of the largest urchin exporters in the U.S.; the export value of California's sea urchin harvest is estimated at more than $80 million a year.

Sea urchins are important to Santa Barbara's economy. Processors clean and pack the roe into trays for sale to domestic and Japanese markets. More than 75percent of the harvest is exported to Japan, and close to 25 percent is sold to restaurants in California and other states.

ShellAir is a small cargo airline that exports fresh seafood to Asia. Sea urchin roe represents 75 percent of ShellAir's business.

What impact did the volcano in Alaska have on

(1) the diver and his/her business?

(2) the sea urchin processor?

(3) the transportation industry and ShellAir?

(4) local restaurants?

Case 4 - Swordfish Prices

Gary owns and operates a 60-foot boat, the Darlene, which he runs up to 200 miles out to sea to catch swordfish with a drift gillnet. He and his two-man crew live on the open ocean for a week at a time. Every day they look at the satellite weather chart on their onboard computer to monitor water temperatures and locate temperature fronts where swordfish might be abundant. Every night they set their net, pulling the catch by daybreak.

On this trip the Darlene has to steam for 18 hours to find a temperature break offshore of San Francisco. The crew sets the net each night and pulls at dawn, but fishing is slow, only one or two fish each day. On the fourth day, fishing picks up and Gary catches 15 fish, each 100 pounds or more. Gary cleans each fish as soon as possible and stores it on ice in his refrigerated fish hold, taking special care to prevent bruising. On the fifth day the weather gets nasty and Gary runs for port with 19 swordfish aboard, totaling 2,600 pounds of fish. When he left on the trip, the market price for swordfish was $4 a pound. The amount he would make from this load would be enough to pay all his trip expenses, plus his house mortgage and boat payment, and leave a little profit.

When Gary reaches the dock, however, he learns that the market is oversupplied with swordfish. A lot of fishermen came in to unload at the same time because of the storm, and in addition, fish buyers have imported large supplies of swordfish from Chile and Hawaii at lower prices. When Gary finally sells his fish, he receives only $2.25 a pound for it, just over half of the price he was expecting. He barely covers the cost of the trip.

Why did the price of swordfish drop? What effect did the price drop have on Gary's business? What can he do to avoid such surprises? How did this situation affect restaurants and supermarkets?

California Seafood Council, PO Box 91540,		Santa Barbara, CA 93190 +1-805-569-8050