Home: The Story of Maine
Lesson 3: Lobster
(For use with Module
Alignment with the Maine Learning Results
A CLEAR AND EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATOR
Uses oral, written, visual, artistic, and
technological modes of expression.
A CREATIVE AND PRACTICAL PROBLEM SOLVER
Identifies patterns, trends, and relationships that
apply to solutions to problems.
A COLLABORATIVE AND QUALITY WORKER
Knows the structure and functions of the labor
AN INTERGRATIVE AND INFORMED THINKER
Applies knowledge and skills in and across English
language arts, visual and performing arts, foreign languages,
health and physical education, mathematics, science, social
studies, and career preparation.
DATA ANALYSIS AND STATISTICS
Students will understand and apply concepts of data
analysis. Students will be able to:
Predict and draw conclusions from charts, tables, and
graphs that summarize data from practical situations.
PATTERNS, RELATIONS, FUNCTIONS
Students will understand that mathematics is the science
of patterns, relationships, and functions. Students will be able
Create a graph to represent a real-life situation and
draw inferences from it.
Science and Technology
Students will understand how living things depend on one
another and on non-living aspects of the environment. Students
will be able to:
Analyze the factors that affect population size.
Analyze the impact of human and other activities on the type
and pace of the environment.
Students will communicate effectively in the application
of science and technology. Students will be able to:
Employ graphs, tables, and maps in making arguments and
Critique models, stating how they do and do not effectively
represent the real phenomenon.
IMPLICATIONS OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
Students will understand the historical, social,
economics, environmental, and ethical implications of science
and technology. Students will be able to:
Demonstrate the importance of resource management,
controlling environmental impacts, and maintaining natural
HUMAN INTERACTION WITH ENVIRONMENTS
Students will understand and analyze the relationships among
people and their physical environments. Students will be able
Explain factors that shape places and regions over time
(e.g. physical and cultural factors).
- Play a game that illustrates the delicate ecological
balance between fishing, fishing regulations and fish
- Collect data as they play the game.
- Graph the data and analyze the results they find.
- Write an analysis of the results, and explain how economic
decisions can affect the environment.
Background Information: If you want to demonstrate
dramatically the way human economic decisions can affect the
environment, this game is a good one to play with your students.
It is a model that simulates the impact that the lobster fishery
can have on the lobster population. Students act as teams of
lobster fishermen, and make economic decisions about the
intensity of their fishing. Meanwhile, as they fish, they keep
track of the lobster population. They fish one round in an
unregulated system, and another in a regulated system that
limits the number of days people may fish. When they have
finished the game, you have an opportunity to discuss how
unregulated fishing can harm a fish population, though it may be
better in the short term for people’s pocketbooks. Regulated
fishing, on the other hand, can be riskier economically, but it
helps ensure the health of a fish population, which is important
if the fishery is to remain an important force in the economy.
Please note: the rules and figures represented in the game
do not necessarily correspond with reality. The prices set on
traps, boats, maintenance costs, as well as the method of
regulating the fishery, and other items, may differ greatly from
how things truly are. The point of the game is not to focus on
the specific figures, but to look at the larger trends.
Encourage students to ask questions that analyze the data: how
is the lobster population affected when there are more traps in
the ocean? How are people affected when fishing is regulated?
These are the important questions.
This is a complex game to explain on paper, but once you
begin to play it, the many rules should become clear. You may
want to play it once outside of the classroom—with family or
friends—before you teach it to your students, to make sure all
the rules are clear to you.
- Several copies of both the Team Spreadsheets and the
Class Spreadsheets. For each round of the game, students will
need one sheet for their own team ("Team
Spreadsheet"), and one for the status of the total lobster
population and the market ("Class Spreadsheet")
- Class Spreadsheet copied on a transparency
- Overhead projector
- Calculators for each team
- Pencils with erasers
- 4 sets of dice
- A large supply of pennies, paper clips, erasers, or some
other item. Elect one item—pennies, for example—to stand for
lobster traps. One penny should be equivalent to 100 traps. Have
another item stand for boats. As students buy boats and traps,
use these items to help them keep track of how many they have
(like hotels in Monopoly).
- Copies of Game Rules for students
- Sample Spreadsheets and Sample Graphs depicting an
Unregulated round and a Regulated round of the game
- Graph paper, rulers
Timing: 3-4 class periods
- Break the class into four teams. Each team represents a
fleet of lobster boats. Each team starts out with 1 boat, 200
traps, and $5,000. Tell students to mark the beginning number of
boats and cash on their Team Spreadsheets in the appropriate
columns. Use the Sample Spreadsheets as models.
- Put the transparency of the Class Spreadsheet up on an
overhead projector. During the game, you will be keeping track
of the class data on this sheet. Students should also keep the
same records on their own Class Spreadsheets. They will need to
use the data later when they graph the results.
- Give each team two dice. Explain to them that the first
round of the game will not be regulated. Each team will be
fishing for 150 days. Remind students that the rules, prices,
costs, and other items represented in the game do not
necessarily reflect what they are in real life. For example,
there are many more than 1,000,000 lobsters in the Gulf of
Maine, but for the purposes of the game, that is the figure they
are starting out with. Also, lobster fishermen generally do not
fish in "teams;" again, this is only for the purpose
of the game. The important thing is that they look at the larger
trends in the data they will be gathering.
- Explain the game rules to the students. Play a practice
round to clarify the rules. Begin by having each team roll to
determine their team’s rate of success. See the Game Rules for
- Continue to follow the steps outlined in detail in the Game
Rules. Students should continue to keep track of their results,
while you keep track of the lobster population on the Class
Spreadsheet on the overhead.
- After several years in an unregulated round of the game,
you will begin to notice that the lobster population is
declining. Once the population figure reaches zero, or becomes
negative, stop the game immediately: there are no more lobsters
in the ocean! Use this time to discuss with students why they
think the population declined so sharply. Ask them to analyze
their behavior as fishermen. Use questions like the
- As they were fishing, were they thinking about the health
of the lobster population at all? Were they focused mainly on
making a profit?
- How did their fishing behavior affect the lobster
- What do they think might happen if there were no fishermen?
Would the lobster population grow exponentially? Or would
another predator keep it under control?
- What happens to a predator (fishermen in this case) when
the population of its prey declines?
- Now, play a round of the game in a regulated system. Use
the formula in the Game Rules to determine how many days teams
can fish each year. The number of days allowed will change each
year, based on the lobster population and number of traps in
use. See the Game Rules for details.
- Again, play several years of the game, keeping track of the
population as you go. It should stay relatively stable, or even
increase. After seven or eight years, stop the round, and ask
students to analyze the data they’ve collected. What happened
this time around? Did the regulations frustrate them? Did they
have a harder time making money? Did anyone go out of business?
What was the impact of their behavior on the lobster population?
Even if it was harder to make money, did they think they could
have survived on what they were making? Which system did they
- You may wish to play with the model in order to get
different results. Some suggestions:
- Change the base rate of population growth (raise or lower
the value of r). This will alter how the lobster population
reproduces each year.
- Change the prices on boats and/or traps, or the yearly
maintenance costs for these items. Notice how this affects
profits, and then how profits affect fishing behavior.
- Change the way the fishing season is regulated. Notice how
this affects the lobster population.
- After you have played a few rounds of the game, and
collected your data, have students analyze the data more
formally by graphing the results. Use the sample graphs as
models for your students to follow. Have them work individually
or in pairs.
- When students have completed their graphs, lead a
discussion about the data and the game. Ask some of the
- What did this game teach you about what it might be like to
be a fisherman?
- Why is it important to regulate fishing?
- Do you have alternative suggestions for how fishing should
be regulated? What are they? Why might they work better than the
regulation method in the game?
- If you made any changes in the game rules, how did they
change the results?
- How does the game illustrate how human economic decisions
affect the environment?
- This game is only a simulation of what happens in the real
world. How accurate is it? What factors does the game leave out?
How might a fisherman criticize this game? How might a biologist
criticize this game?
- Have students write a 1-2 page analysis to accompany their
graphs. In their analysis, they should explain each graph,
discuss why they believe the lobster population acted as it did
in each round of the game, and discuss why resource management
is important to Maine’s economy. Grade students based on the
accuracy of their graphs, and the thoroughness of their
* This lesson is based on a game created by
Adam Davis for his Marine Biology class at Northshore High
School, Seacliff, New York.
- Research the ways the lobster fishery is regulated in
- Invite a lobster fisherman to come speak to the class, to
discuss management of the lobster fishery.
- Learn about other fisheries and/or resources in Maine that
are affected by human impact. Create another version of the game
for hunting, tourism, or forestry.
- Read and discuss "The Tragedy of the Commons," by
Garrett Hardin. It is one of the seminal works on how regulation
(or the lack thereof) influences human impact on the
environment. You may find it in Science, Vol. 163, No.
13, p. 1243-1248.
- For an opposing opinion, have students read sections of
Julian Simon’s The Ultimate Resource. Though not
specifically about fisheries, Simon discusses how unregulated
resource use can be better for both the economy and the