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Hooked: Pirates, Poaching, and the Perfect Fish Hardcover – May 2, 2006

ISBN-13: 978-1594861109 ISBN-10: 1594861102 Edition: First Edition

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 328 pages
  • Publisher: Rodale Books; First Edition edition (May 2, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594861102
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594861109
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.4 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #924,295 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. The Patagonian toothfish—which can live up to 50 years and grow to six feet long—is an ugly creature considered too bland for eating by most South Americans. Its high fat content, codlike texture and lack of a fishy taste convinced a Los Angeles fish merchant who found the toothfish in Chile in 1977 that, given an exotic new name, it would do quite well in America. By 1998, "Chilean sea bass" had become the hottest restaurant craze: "[e]veryone had to have it." Knecht (The Proving Ground) weaves a parallel plot, which takes place in the South Indian Ocean in 2003, where an Australian patrol boat is hunting down a pirate vessel for stealing toothfish. The chase takes them thousands of nautical miles away to dangerous Antarctic waters and involves South African mercenaries and a dramatic boarding in dangerous seas. Knecht's gripping book flips between the commercial history of the toothfish—just the latest of many culinary fads that end up threatening an ocean species—and the chase, which illuminates the practically lawless world of commercial fishing, where factory boats with vast dragnets can devastate a population in just a couple of years, a practice the author calls "the marine equivalent of strip mining." First serial in the Wall Street Journal. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


"Hooked is a fish story, a global whodunit, a courtroom drama--and a critically important ecological message all rolled into one."--Tom Brokaw

"It's one of the best ones I've read in years" -Tom Brokaw
Today (NBC) 05/24/06

Review by John Balzar, LA Times
A high-seas adventure with enough action and suspense to have you holding your breath.

A mystery that untangles the roots of a culinary fad fitfully hatched in and marketed from Los Angeles.
A courtroom thriller.

Proof positive that an objective eye is the most persuasive of all.
Mr. G. Bruce Knecht, take a bow.

Not only is "Hooked: Pirates, Poaching and the Perfect Fish" a rollicking read, it is a relief. And a wonder. For wrapped up in these red-blooded storytelling ingredients is the account of another assault on our planet's troubled environment. And let's face it, conservation writing has become one of our dreariest forms: The sky is falling, oh dear … fill in the blanks.

In these taut pages, Knecht takes livelier aim at the plundering of a limited resource for the sake of growing appetites. He delivers us, straight ahead and close-in, to an epic sea chase across the fearsome Southern Ocean. In one boat, righteous men are out to get what they want, what they regard as theirs, in this seascape of ice and storm. In the other, righteous men are out to stop them in the name of the law.

The story about the demise of the Patagonian toothfish, an ugly, tasteless creature with an unappealing name, is not so heartening. But the fact that Knecht tells it with such crackling drive and with complete confidence in the good judgment of his readers is.

The Patagonian toothfish is large, dark-skinned and cod-like in appearance. The name comes from its undershot mouth and needle-sharp fangs. It dwells in deep, cold waters -- for purposes of Knecht's story, in the waters of the far Southern Hemisphere. Back in the late 1970s, it was a trash fish caught only incidentally by the commercial fleet that worked out of Valparaíso, Chile. It was thought too oily to be desirable.

But a decline in the catch of other more salable fish, along with some desperate determination by global fish brokers who work the Chile-to-Los Angeles circuit, a dash of ingenuity by seafood marketers and a splash of savory miso glaze in a fancy New York restaurant, and voilà, you have the highly desirable, evermore expensive and, of course, deliciously trendy Chilean sea bass.

You can guess what this newfound glamour has meant for the toothfish. Late in the game, as usual, fishery experts have weighed in with the news that this long-lived, slow-growing animal cannot endure the strip-mining of modern commercial fishing. By now, though, the fish has become the rage, commanding exorbitant prices; for fisherman, this is irresistible. Although their reach and budgets are limited, governments have made efforts to "save" the toothfish, joined in the effort by environmental activists and, here and there, responsible chefs too.

But enough. I said that Knecht had confidence in his readers. This book contains no sermon. All the essential elements are there, yes. But if someone is going to take to the soapbox and wag a stern finger, it will have to be you.

Tearing through this page turner is enough to trigger a pinch-me sensation. Wait a minute, am I reading a book about exploitation of our fragile planet in which the writer isn't bashing me over the head with the obvious? Am I learning about the sensibilities of those who fish where they please along with the struggles of those who try to stop them? Am I getting both a story and the story?

You are.

We can wish Knecht good fortune in the hope that others will follow his cue. True enough, not all conservation issues yield the plot and rugged characters of a Jack London high-seas adventure. And it's plain that the most pressing conservation stories, like global warming, don't arrive at easy answers.

But there is something to the notion of casting one's net wider than the didactic, and Knecht proves it. Conservationists will be with him, and who knows who else he will reel in for the sake of an oh-my-goodness tale.

A reporter for the Wall Street Journal as well as an experienced sailor, Knecht's last book was the harrowing adventure "The Proving Ground," the story of the tragic Sydney-to-Hobart yacht race in 1998, in which a surprise storm took out more than half the fleet and killed six mariners. His feel for the wild wonder of the sea goes without saying.

But what about the courtroom thriller part of this book?

We'll leave that to the author and his compelling narrative. The outlines of the story have the Australian patrol boat Southern Supporter in territorial waters north of Antarctica, prime habitat for the shrinking population of Patagonian toothfish. The under-gunned patrol encounters a shadowy 175-foot, Uruguayan-flagged ship, the Viarsa-1. Fishing pirates? Probably.

Before the tale is over, these ships have traversed 4,000 miles of some of the most inhospitable and terrifying waters on the planet, and two years have lapsed. Australia, which is not alone among nations with an imperfect record of managing fisheries, has its laws tested by the tradition of lawlessness that has long ruled the high seas.

All the while, by the heavy ton, by the container load, by the merciless rule of supply and demand, Patagonian toothfish are drawn from the deep, grilled, poached, broiled and sauced in another maritime gold rush.

Then a jury speaks.

It gives away nothing to say that when you next find yourself at a restaurant looking at the seafood offerings, you'll know what you should do.

John Balzar is a Times staff writer and the author of "Yukon Alone: The World's Toughest Adventure Race."

The New York Times - 6/15/06
In 1977 Lee Lantz, a Los Angeles fish wholesaler, came across something new in the Chilean fishing port of Valparaiso. The enormous "fearsome- looking gray-black fish" was called "bacalao de profundidad," or "cod of the deep," by the local fisherman, and nobody wanted it. In "Hooked," G. Bruce Knecht, a writer for The Wall Street Journal, tells how the fish nobody wanted became the trendy Chilean sea bass, and how over the last 30 years it has been fished almost to the point of extinction. In chapters that move from places like the South Indian Ocean to Bridgehampton, N.Y., to Vancouver to Perth, Australia, Mr. Knecht tells of the rise and fall of a fish, as well as of a 4,000-mile chase to seize a pirate fishing boat.

More About the Author

G. Bruce Knecht is a former senior writer and foreign correspondent for The Wall Street Journal and the author of The Proving Ground as well as Hooked: Pirates, Poaching and the Perfect Fish.

After joining the Journal in 1994, he wrote about the banking industry and pursued investigative projects until 1995 when he began covering publishing--books, magazines, newspapers and the press. In 1998, the Journal nominated his articles about how advertisers and retailers influenced the editorial content of major magazines for two Pulitzer Prizes. The same stories won an award from the University of Missouri Journalism School.
In 1998, Knecht moved to Hong Kong to become the Journal's Asia Correspondent. His article about children of American servicemen who are still living in Vietnam won a Human Rights Press Award.

Knecht took a leave of absence from the Journal to write The Proving Ground, which was initially published in June 2001 by Little, Brown & Company in the United States as well as publishers in several other countries. CNN produced a documentary based on the book. Hooked was published by Rodale and several overseas publishers in 2006 and is currently being developed as a documentary. He is currently at work on a book for Free Press that will describe the design and building of a very large yacht in the context of the recent economic crisis.

From 1981 through 1983, Knecht was a reporter and later an assistant editor for Dun's Review magazine. He joined the Los Angeles Herald Examiner in 1984 as its senior financial writer and also worked for The New York Times on a free-lance basis from 1982 to 1985. He was a summer associate at Goldman, Sachs & Company in New York in 1985, and in 1986 he became an associate at Tishman Speyer Properties. In 1987, he joined Lincoln Property Company, first as an associate and later a partner.

He was a London-based free-lance writer from 1991 to 1994, focusing on business and economic topics, particularly those involving the collapse of the Soviet Union. His articles have appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, The New York Times Magazine, The Independent (UK), National Review, Barron's, Conde Nast Traveler, SAIL, and Men's Journal.

Born in Morristown, New Jersey, Knecht received a bachelor's degree from Colgate University and has served on the board of directors of its alumni corporation. He earned an M.B.A. from Harvard University and was a Reuters Fellow at Oxford University.

An avid sailor, Knecht raced across the Atlantic Ocean on Mari-Cha IV, the yacht that broke the 100-year-old transatlantic race record.

Customer Reviews

Let's save these fish!
Dr. Edward L. Paul Jr.
At the very least, reading this book will make you hesitate the next time you choose which fish you might like for dinner.
S. Alex
The book is extremely well written and the stories are really quite riveting.
Frederick S. Goethel

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By R. Allen on May 16, 2006
Format: Hardcover
When was the last time you ordered fish at a restaurant? Have you ever wondered how those fish got there? How about Chilean Sea Bass? My wife and I have ordered it dozens of times. Very tasty. One of my favorites. Once you read "Hooked", you might want to reconsider. "Hooked" is an adventure tale of how our oceans are being stripped of fish in unenlightened ways. This book is fascinating reading as fast paced as an adventure novel. I guarantee you'll enjoy it and learn so much about things you never knew about--fish, our oceans, ice, maritime laws. Every person who has ever ordered fish from a restaurant should read it. I highly recommend it.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By R. Spell VINE VOICE on May 29, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is an excellent book detailing an illegal fishing expedition in Australian water resulting in a forced boarding after a lengthy chase to north of South Africa, as well as the resulting trial. But that is not the most interesting story of the book. The author details the discovery of Chilean Sea Bass (bass? what a joke), the marketing angle, and the subsequent ecological tragedy as the sea beds are over fished in 15 years. The author did excellent research and tells this compelling tale while teaching the reader about the fishing industry, legal and illegal, and the current state of our fishing beds. One concern I have about the book is it is somewhat disjointed as he jumps from country to country at one point adding in a story of a fishing company owner living in America who is arrested for importing fish illegally caught. Also, in many respects the trial at the end of the book is very anti-climatic.

Overall though, this is a very interesting book where you will learn quite a bit about the fishing industry and problems with our supplies of fish.
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16 of 20 people found the following review helpful By apg/drs on May 4, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Perfect fish? This is the perfect book! Hooked is part pirate chase, part history, part courtroom drama, and part musings on globalization. And it is incredible. Knecht somehow threads disparate stories together to tell a tale about the consequences of an advertising executive's decision to change the name of Patagonian toothfish to Chilean Sea Bass, and the resultant mania it caused. Basically, sophisticated urban diners search for the new, new thing combined with a fish so oily that inexperienced chefs could not over-cook it results in... the worlds longest pirate chase.
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Format: Hardcover
HOOKED: PIRATES POACHING AND THE PERFECT FISH promises much for a wide audience, from those interested in fishing to others researching modern-day pirating and the politics of the sea. The explosive world-wide demand for popular fish has all but fostered over-fishing and all but condoned seafood piracy: HOOKED combines culinary history with a world-wide chase to document the fading Chilean Sea Bass, a prehistoric-looking fish with the richness of tuna and the texture of butter. It's hard to place this rich text: part culinary history, part social inquiry, largely environmental exploration - it also fits under 'True Adventure'. Many will find it compelling.

Diane C. Donovan

California Bookwatch
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Gone Sailing on December 7, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Even if one doesn't care about the plight of marine species like Chilean Seabass this book makes a great read! It is a thrilling good guy bad guy story taking place in a desolate part of the world. It also very informative and insightful regarding Marine Conservation.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By T160 on June 26, 2007
Format: Paperback
Really fun book, everyone I have passed it on to also gave it rave reviews. Excitement, suspense and a little culinary history. A good read
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By The Sound of Destruction on February 4, 2009
Format: Paperback
The author G. Bruce Knecht broke the 100-year-old transatlantic race record on a yacht in 2005. He is a writer that has been published by the Wall Street Journal, and the New York Times magazine.

This book is in my opinion is a very good, reading group book. The stories of Hooked: Pirates, Poaching, and the Perfect Fish, is told very smoothly and flows very well. This is one of the qualities that make the book appealing to middle to high school readers. The way each page is written encourages the reader to continue to read more of the book.

I personally could not put the book down after just reading the first few pages, where it describes the way the Southern Supporter closes in on suspected fish poachers. It was a very addictive book from start to finish.

The book was great because the conflicts between man versus man and man versus nature were breathtakingly epic between the forces of man on one side and the forces of nature's frigid and icy seas trying to stop them on the other. The other major conflict was the pursuit between the boats, Viarsa and the Southern Supporter and their crews.

The author's purpose, to my understanding, was to inform readers about the human impact on the ocean's fisheries. It shows how overused these fisheries are and how irresponsible we are with our natural resources and what people are doing to stop that. It also shows how the Patagonian Tooth fish or Chilean Sea Bass as it is called came to popularity.

It also shows, how lacking of morals, today's people are, for driving a species of fish to the brink of extinction just to fatten their checkbooks. It also shows, how most of the time, they are shielded from justice by hiding behind extradition by living in other countries.
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