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Food webs activity

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Knowledge building

Sources of food — and when they appear in ecosystems — are changing, with consequences for marine life

Read Food Webs independently or in a group.

In a class knowledge building circle, discuss the following questions.

  1. One of the ways that Canadian communities are connected to the oceans is through food. Are there any foods you eat at home that come from the ocean?
  2. How do marine predators contribute to healthy ecosystems?
  3. Microscopic organisms called phytoplankton form the base of most marine food webs. What do phytoplankton need to grow and survive?
  4. Marine food webs include animals that live on land. Can you provide some examples of species that live on land, yet rely on food from the sea to survive?


Educator overview:

In this activity, students will play a game where they pretend to be capelin. This game can be played in small groups in a classroom or over video conferencing.

Capelin outline
(PDF, 48 KB)

12-sided die
(PDF, 55 KB)

Provide each student with one of the capelin outlines. They will use this in the game to store their energy points.

If you are playing in the classroom, provide one 12-sided die per group. Students can use popsicle sticks to represent their energy points.

If you are playing over video conferencing, have each student print out and assemble the 12-sided die. Students may use coins, small rocks, or other tokens to represent their energy points.

Student worksheet

You are a capelin living off the coast of Newfoundland! In this game, you will be playing for ‘energy points’, which represent energy that is accumulated through food. Your goal in the game is to survive and grow by accumulating as many energy points as possible. The more energy points you have, the healthier your capelin will be!

Each player starts with five energy points. On your turn, you will roll the 12-sided die and read the scenario that corresponds to the number you rolled. Depending on the scenario, you may lose or gain energy points. Add and remove energy points from your capelin outline.


  1. An Atlantic cod is in pursuit of you and your fellow capelin! You swim as fast as you can to escape its open mouth. You manage to escape, but all that swimming tires you out. Lose 3 energy points
  2. Humpback whales migrate into your habitat. One lunges towards you - and you end up dinner. Start over with zero energy points
  3. You find a delicious group of copepods! You eat until you’re full. Gain 4 energy points
  4. A timing mismatch between phytoplankton blooms and zooplankton decreases the amount of food available for you to eat. Lose 2 energy points
  5. The ocean water in your home bay is getting too warm for you. You must move to a new bay. The travel tires you out. Lose 3 energy points
  6. A local school performs a shoreline beach clean-up near your habitat. This prevents you from accidentally eating plastic. Gain 3 energy points
  7. A group of research scientists work with local Indigenous peoples to create sustainable fishing regulations in your habitat. Gain 2 energy points
  8. The number of Atlantic cod decreases in your habitat. Because Atlantic cod are major predators of capelin, the capelin population begins to grow. Unfortunately, this means that there are not enough food resources to go around for everyone. Lose 3 energy points
  9. A large storm stirs up a strong onshore wind that brings plankton into your habitat. You feast on the plankton. Gain 3 energy points
  10. A northern gannet, Newfoundland’s largest seabird, dives into the water of your habitat. It grabs you in its beak, and you become dinner. Start over with zero energy points
  11. Ocean acidification affects crustaceans in your habitat by affecting their ability to grow and maintain shells. Crustaceans are part of your diet, so you lose out on some food. Lose 2 energy points
  12. During the winter, you move to deep water and stop feeding. You must survive off the food stores you accumulated during the spring and summer. Lose 1 energy point

Canada’s Connected Oceans

  1. Building Links Within Canada’s Oceans Now 2020
    • Read Species in Canada’s Oceans Now 2020. Describe two effects that climate change is having on Canada’s seafood market.
  2. Exploring Beyond Canada’s Oceans Now 2020
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