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Bottomfeeder: How to Eat Ethically in a World of Vanishing Seafood Hardcover – April 29, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this whirlwind, worldwide tour of fisheries, Grescoe (The Devil's Picnic) whiplashes readers from ecological devastation to edible ecstasy and back again. In disturbing detail, he depicts the turbid and murky Chesapeake Bay, where, with overharvested oysters too few to do their filtering job, fish are infested with the cell from hell, a micro-organism that eats their flesh and exposes their guts. He describes how Indian shrimp farms treated with pesticides, antibiotics and diesel oil are destroying protective mangroves, ecosystems and villages, and portrays the fate of sharks—a collapsing fishery—finned for the Chinese delicacy shark-fin soup: living sharks have their pectoral and dorsal fins cut from their bodies with heated metal blades.... The sharks are kicked back into the ocean, alive and bleeding; it can take them days to die. But these horrific scenes are interspersed with delectable meals of succulent Portuguese sardines with fat-jeweled juices or a luscious breakfast of bluefin tuna sashimi, cool and moist... halfway between a demi-sel Breton butter and an unctuous steak tartare; the latter is a dish that, due to the fish's endangered status, Grescoe decides he won't enjoy again. The book ends on a cautiously optimistic note: scientists know what steps are needed to save the fisheries and the ocean; we just need the political will to follow through. Grescoe provides a helpful list of which fish to eat: no, never, depends, sometimes and absolutely, always. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School—A thorough investigation of the fishing industry. Grescoe's research carried him to major fishing ports across the globe, from the Chesapeake Bay to the Indian Ocean, where he spent time with and interviewed fishermen, fishmongers, chefs, restaurateurs, and scientists. Each chapter focuses on a different dish—"Shrimp Curry," "Bluefin Tuna Sashimi," "Fish and Chips"—telling the history of the dish as well as the legal, ethical, and health issues surrounding the seafood used to make it. The author then explains his own choices of what to eat and what not to eat. But what really drives the book is his love of cuisine. Whether it's something as ordinary as fish sticks or an exotic meal of jellyfish, he writes about it all with gustatory enthusiasm. The book concludes with a useful appendix listing alternative resources, questions to ask when buying seafood, a list of common fishing terms, and lists of seafood broken into categories so readers have a clearer idea of what is acceptable to eat. While it may not have the widespread appeal of Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation (Houghton, 2001), Grescoe's entertaining and informative book will arm anyone interested in a dietary change.—Matthew L. Moffett, Pohick Regional Library, Burke, VA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA; First Edition edition (April 29, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1596912251
  • ISBN-13: 978-1596912250
  • Product Dimensions: 6.7 x 1.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #459,157 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful By T. Hooper on June 18, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Bottomfeeder is an excellent read on a critically important topic. The book documents the massive overfishing that combined with environmental pressures is driving many fish species to the point of extinction, and that much of the cheap seafood on our plates is not safe or sustainable for humans or the planet. Unfortunately, this issue has gotten limited coverage outside the environmental media and for many readers Grescoe's book will be an eye opener that explores new territory.

Marine biologists estimate by 2040 a large number of species will be decimated. If whole sections of the aquatic food chain go the way of once plentiful Chesapeake Bay oysters and blue fin tuna, what will happen? Grescoe jokes about fish and chips being replaced with jellyfish and chips as a lighthearted way to highlight the issue. As he points out, fishing is the only large scale hunting activity still carried out in the wild. Decades of massive, industrial scale fishing are an uncontrolled experiment, upturning species in every ocean, turning predator into prey and destroying environments and human health through questionable fishing techniques, unsafe farming practices and black markets.

Nobody escapes responsibility for this mess, but Grescoe turns what could have been an angry polemical rant into a globe trotting adventure and keeps Bottomfeeder enjoyable to read. His love of food shines through on every page as he talks to fishermen, scientists, bureaucrats and chefs. By the end of the book, the root cause of overfishing is shown to be the familiar toxic brew of greed and ignorance familiar to the environmental genre, aided by ineffective government oversight and often compounded by chefs whose promotion of a tasty fish can spell disaster for a species.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By matthew stillman on May 8, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you are a junkie for food politics and ethical and healthy food choices this book stands with Pollan, Nestle, Schlosser and Shiva.

The book takes the reader up and down the food chain as both a diner and a social/environmental critic.

even for the well informed amongst us there is lots to learn and appreciate. Grescoe connects lots of dots and makes eating seafood a fully engaging activity.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on June 25, 2008
Format: Hardcover
BOTTOMFEEDER
By Taras Grescoe
I was really looking forward to reading this book and I was not disappointed. When it comes to eating seafood responsibly I have always felt at a loss for information. First of all I grew up in North Eastern Ohio and the only "local" fish there came from Lake Erie and there was a time that no one would eat fish from Lake Erie. I also am allergic to just about every kind of shell fish. So beyond the Gortons Fisherman my palate is unrefined to say the least. After reading this book I have a much better understanding of how the oceans of our world are being affected by the lack of understanding on the part of most of its people. This book, over the course of 10 chapters takes the reader through the problems facing our most endangered species of fish as well as the many reasons why these fish are endangered. It is not one simple problem but the answer is actually not that difficult to implement even though it is not popular every where. The answer is being informed and not accepting practices that are destroying our oceans. If we don't buy products that are not ethically produced there will be no market for them. I liked the fact that every chapter had a focus on a specific fish and its ecosystem. What the challenges were for that ecosystem and what could be done about it. Because of this chapter by chapter approach when I want to reference the book again in the future I will have a much easier time finding the information I need. It seems to me after reading this book that the two main culprits in the problems facing our oceans is ignorant indiffference on the part of the consumer and the greed of those that see the ocean as a source of income and not a way of life. I will never look at seafood the same way again.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Jeanette on July 30, 2008
Format: Hardcover
While I was reading Bottomfeeder, I was sometimes craving fish (sardines, especially!) and sometimes thinking I never wanted to eat another fish (farmed salmon) or shrimp again.

Bottomfeeder is a real eye-opener about where our seafood comes from and how its future is in jeopardy. Ever wonder how Red Lobster gets sooooo many shrimp to feed soooo many people all over the country? And ever wonder why those shriimp all exactly (pretty much) the same size?

Surely you've heard that salmon is plentiful because there are salmon farms. Want to learn how gross those farms are? Read this book.

Luckily, as a seafood lover, Grescoe writes about sustainable fish populations and does give very good, clear direction about what sorts of fish -- what species, and how and where they are fished or produced -- one can eat without feeling like one is contributing to the eventual demise of species, and isn't harming one's health with too much mercury, antibiotics or other nasty chemicals.

I loved reading about Grescoe's adventures in eating seafood around the world. Descriptions of sardines made my mouth water, descriptions of pufferfish made me recoil. This is an adventure in eating good food, and an education in how (as the subtitle says) to eat ethically in a world of vanishing seafood. I hope everyone who eats a lot of seafood will read it.
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