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The Great Gulf: Fishermen, Scientists, and the Struggle to Revive the World's Greatest Fishery 1st Edition

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ISBN-13: 978-1559636636
ISBN-10: 1559636637
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From the Inside Flap

New England's cod fishery has always ranked among the world's richest -- until the late 1980s, when catches plummeted because of overfishing. Even today, with fishing sharply restricted, the fish struggle to recover.

Largely overlooked in this disaster is the puzzle at its heart: a strange, virulent disagreement between government scientists and fishermen over how many fish are in the sea, and therefore over how many should be caught.

In "The Great Gulf," David Dobbs takes us on a series of voyages over the Gulf of Maine and Georges Bank, vividly depicting the challenges facing John Galbraith, Linda Despres, and Jay Burnett, scientists with the National Marine Fisheries Service working to determine how many fish there really are, and Dave Goethel, a whipsmart, science-savvy fisherman who struggles to maintain his livelihood amid increasing regulation. As these people strive to come to a common understanding of this dynamic environment, their efforts raise fascinating questions about what it means to see the world clearly.

For anyone who has read "Cod" or "The Perfect Storm," "The Great Gulf" offers the next chapter of the story -- how today's fishermen and fisheries scientists are grappling with the collapse of this fishery and trying to chart, amid uncertain waters, a course toward its restoration.

About the Author

David Dobbs is a writer who lives in Montpelier, Vermont. A frequent contributor to Audubon, he is co-author of The Northern Forest (Chelsea Green, 1995), which won the Sigurd F. Olson Award for Excellence in Nature Writing and numerous other awards.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Island Press; 1 edition (October 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1559636637
  • ISBN-13: 978-1559636636
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.2 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,835,590 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I write book, magazine articles, and a blog on science, medicine, and culture, contributing regularly to publications such as the New York Times Magazine, Atlantic Monthly, Slate, Scientific American, and Scientific American Mind where I'm a contributing editor.

Sometimes people ask I write about science and medicine. For a long time I replied that I found intriguing the puzzles that scientists and doctors face and try to solve. That certainly holds; there's no detective story more gripping than the effort to crack a tough scientific problem or save the life of a patient whose illness defies the usual measures.

Yet as I write more about these subjects, whether it be a 19th-century argument about coral reefs (Reef Madness), a 20th-century argument about how to count fish (The Great Gulf), brain surgery for depression, or the biology of fear, I increasingly appreciate what science and medicine can reveal about our culture. I don't want to call it "science criticism," as one talks about art or literary criticism, but I think that looking at science and medicine and how they are done and received can show us as much about our culture as can critiquing books, movies, music, or art.

The way we view mood and its disorders, for instance, whether as scientists or lay people, reveals much about how we think about how the mind works, about our sense of responsibility for one's actions, about how tightly or loosely our characters are dictated by our biology, and about how much power we have to change our own thoughts and actions. Likewise, whether we favor fighting malaria with expensive vaccine programs or cheap (but effective) mosquito netting says a lot about our values and our sense of what sort of solutions are most valuable. There, as elsewhere, we tend to favor the expensive tech fix rather than the simple.

Or consider memory. One of my richest reading pleasures was reading Proust's Remembrance of Things Past, a splendid meditation on (among other things) solitude, loneliness, society, and the unique world that memory creates for each of us. I've rarely read anything so deeply immersive or so revealing about how our minds work. Yet my appreciation of Proust, and of memory, is only magnified by learning about the science of memory. We learn -- we memorize and recall -- via a gorgeous cascade of synaptic and genetic interaction that can sear into our minds the sound of a clarinet or the lovely swing of Ken Griffey -- or recall, in a flood of remembrance, the lights, voices, and very air that surrounded us years ago when we sipped a certain tea whose scent, now unexpectedly countered, takes us rushing back. The science behind such memories is as rich and informative about who we are as is the phenomenology -- the feel of it -- described so beautifully by Proust.

Thus my transformation from literature major to a writer who writes about science. I don't think "science writer" quite a fair label actually; like "southern novelist," it implies limits and a parochialism that may not hold. Good writing about science, like good writing about baseball, pig farming, politics, or art, is about just about everything.

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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Frederick S. Goethel VINE VOICE on July 21, 2001
Format: Hardcover
This is an interesting, and very readable study of the problems that have caused major declines within the New England groundfishing industry, and how 2 seperate, but equally interested parties can view a subject so differently. It presents the case in a middle of the road view and throws the blame for the problem at both groups. If you ever wondered why the price of fish has become prohibitive, or how a major eco-system can be destroted while everyone talks, this is a book well worth reading. It is written in language that non-scientitsts can understand and enjoy.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Jonathan R. Heesch on May 30, 2010
Format: Hardcover
This book is a wonderful insight into the trials and tribulations that take place for Fisherman and those who have to regulate the Fisheries in New England. It is well written and quite intertaining which can be quite an achievement for a book based in Science. As a person who has sailed aboard the vessels written about in the book, Mr. Dobbs representation of the ships is very well done and he captures the essence of being at sea quite well. I feel the book is quite critical of the National Marine Fisheries Service towards the end, but I think it is constructive, honest criticism which I hope the Service and NOAA took to heart since the book was written. Please read if you have any interest in New England, Fish, or Science.
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