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American Catch: The Fight for Our Local Seafood Paperback – June 9, 2015
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"This is Mr. Greenberg's ultimate goal--to get us to eat the seafood from our nation's bounty. He points to the remarkable fact that, "while 91 percent of the seafood Americans eat is foreign, a third of the seafood Americans catch gets sold to foreigners." In addition, he points out, "Americans now harvest our best, most nutritious fish in our best-managed Alaskan fisheries and send those fish over to Asia. In exchange, we are importing fish farmed in Asia, with little of the brain-building compounds fish eaters are seeking when they eat fish.""
The Boston Globe
"Greenberg describes a wondrous moment — in the Bronx, of all places; while in search of reintroduced specimen he stumbles on “a real live, naturally spawned New York City oyster . . . [a] brave sentry from a lost kingdom.” Greenberg is at his best describing such epiphanies — he also writes beautifully about fishing for salmon in Alaska, which offers up similar reveries."
The Washington Post
"Americans need to eat more American seafood. It’s a point [Greenberg] makes compellingly clear in his new book, American Catch: The Fight for our Local Seafood ."
"This is on the top of my summer reading list: A Fast Food Nation for fish.”
"Blue Ocean Institute fellow Greenberg (Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food, 2010, etc.) offers an optimistic perspective on the connection between preserving our salt marshes and restoring America's offshore seafood production. The author presents three illustrative case studies: the effort to bring oysters back to our Eastern shores, the threat to Alaska's wild salmon industry from mining interests, and the effect of globalization on Gulf Coast shrimp. A fascinating discussion of a multifaceted issue and a passionate call to action."
About the Author
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If we managed to reintroduce edible oysters to the New York City area, we could achieve several things, firstly, cleaner water, as these ancient bivalves filter fifty gallons a day each, and oystertectured shallows would mitigate both storm surges and rising seas. These calciferous reefs in turn harbor and shelter other species, so oysters are actually a keystone species, much like returning wolves to Yellowstone Park restored struggling trees by eating the deer that were eating the seedlings.
Tied into the coastal fate of oysters are salty tidal marshes that spawn a host of tasty piscines, and the most popular of all by weight, shrimp. We could grow all the shrimp we want here, but instead farm it out to Asia and China. The air in China is bad, the water is atrocious, and yet here we are eating shrimp, tilapia and catfish farmed there.
Finally, Mr. Greenberg covers Bristol Bay in Alaska, home to the last great salmon run, and the competing interests of mining corporations who promise to 'get it right this time.' In all a good book, and with some solutions presented, it's not all doom and gloom, we can educate consumers, prod government, and protect what's left.
It's not just a story of environmental damage, though he tells it plainly enough: the pollution and sewage in New York harbor, the oil spill in the Gulf, and the threat of the gold and copper Pebble Mine proposal to the salmon fisheries in Alaska. We learn just how badly our export of our remaining seafood -- and our import of cheaper seafood, such that it is, from Asia and elsewhere -- has distorted our own fisheries, our food industries and our nutrition. We learn just how many local jobs and industries are affected, and we see, more clearly, just how much economic damage goes hand-in-hand with environmental degradation.
It is reversible, he says, but it will need a major change in mindset. This book helps; certainly the reader will think differently about what's on the dinner table. And the author is hopeful: "All that the sea asks of us," he writes, "is that we be wide in our harvest, recognize the limits of its bounty, and protect the places where seafood wealth is born. In return the sea will feed us and make us smarter, healthier, and more resilient in the process. Quite a covenant."
The author looks at three species and starts with the oysters that once were very plentiful in New York Harbor, but which have all but vanished due to pollution and mismanagement of the harbor. Even if the beds could be reestablished, it is doubtful that they would be edible for a long time. But, if they could be replaced in the bay, they would help prevent tide surges in storms, help filter that water that is polluted and make for a better environment.
The second species the author looked at were shrimp from the Gulf of Mexico, particularly in the New Orleans area. Again, at one time, these fish were tasty, if a bit expensive and extremely plentiful. Now, the catches are dwindling and pollution plays a major part in this. Shrimp like a nice shoreline of marshes to grow up in. As the marsh land at the mouth of the Mississippi has diminished due to human intervention, the shrimp have started to leave. In addition, the spill by BP ruined marsh grass allowing even more coast to disappear. And the shrimp are slowly going too. What shrimp are caught are sent to foreign countries, as Americans have developed a taste for farmed shrimp from overseas. Work is being done to restore the marsh areas, which will help the shrimp; hoperfull in time.
Finally the author looks at Bristol Bay Alaska and the attempts to build a huge mine at the head of the Bay . Were that to happen, there is a significant likelihood that the largest all natural run of salmon left in the world, the Alaskan sockeye, will be harmed significantly. In addition, the author points out the ridiculousness of of shipping these fish overseas to import far inferior fish that are farmed in questionable conditions.
This book serves notice that if we don't change our ways, fish in this country as we used to know it may not be around for much longer. We need to clean up our act, rebuild the systems the way they were 100 years ago and stop buying imported fish. Fish has the potential to provide a lot of protein to the American diet if we can manage to keep it here and can allow it to thrive here. I highly recommend this book…it is fascinating, easy to read and should show people exactly what they are eating when they order fish.