5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
This review is from: Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food (Hardcover)
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This book presents investigations into the current status of four popular fish: salmon, bass, cod and tuna. Greenberg, a journalist, grew up fishing off the coast of Long Island, where, even as a teen, he noticed declining fish stocks. In this book, he set out to discover what had happened to the fish he used to catch, and how industrial fish harvesting and farming has affected the population and supply of salmon, bass, cod, and tuna. Greenberg takes up each fish in turn, interspersing personal anecdotes and fishing stories with a historical overview of the species, and a description of how fish farming has affected the availability and health of the species. Sources for Greenberg's research are provided in end notes at the back of the book.
This book is quite fascinating, even for someone who doesn't fish, like myself. Greenberg's personal accounts of fishing trips provide an excellent balance to his research on the science of fish breeding and farming. Together with interviews with traditional fishermen and chefs, they provide a well-rounded, accessible, and compelling overview of the current status of these species. Greenberg's general message is a bit sobering--there just aren't enough fish to go around. Through over-fishing, poisoning and destruction of habitat, damming of rivers, and most importantly, increasing demand, fish stocks are rapidly declining. While there are some bright spots, such as a partial return to productivity for fisheries such as Georges Bank (after complete closures), in general, wild fish are rapidly declining. Fish farming generally produces an inferior product with environmental costs, but may be the only way to keep up with the growing demands of growing populations. And even then, current fish farming practices aren't sustainable when based on fish with poor feed conversion ratios, especially if the feed is produced from wild stocks of smaller fish, which are also being over-harvested.
Nutritionists especially should take note of Greenberg's point that recommendations to eat fish twice a week are simply unrealistic and unsustainable. The current wild catch of fish is 170 billion pounds worldwide, an amount that is proving to be unsustainable, not allowing enough wild fish to remain to reproduce. Yet, if everyone on the planet were to follow dietary recommendations of eating 2 servings of fish per week, the harvest would need to increase to 230 billion pounds per year. How ethical is it to recommend consuming a product at levels far above what the world can support? If supply is lower than demand, then costs will be higher, and only those with higher means will be able to afford the product--how ethical is it to release general dietary recommendations that logically, only more affluent people can afford? In an ideal world, there would be fish enough for everyone to get sufficient omega 3s from wild-caught fish, but our world has too many people and too few fish to meet that ideal. Thus, nutritionists need to rethink their recommendations, and draw back from pushing fish consumption at unsustainable levels. It should be noted that farmed fish could fulfill some of the unmet demand, but for how long? Over-exploited supplies of feeder fish, higher toxin content of farmed fish, and other environmental concerns present serious problems for relying on farmed fish for our food.
Overall, this book is well researched and well written, and is recommended to anyone with an interest in food, fish, or nutrition.