Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food MP3 CD – Audiobook, May 31, 2011
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The underlying premise is that globally we are overfishing. We are harvesting more fish every year than are produced. In some cases we have less than 10% of the fish that were there when commercial fishing started. This is obviously not sustainable.
For each of the four fish, the book discusses what attempts are being made to solve the problem, and the pros and cons of each method. Some advanced genetic techniques are working to a degree (implants that release hormones so that fish will spawn yearlong and not just all at the same time once a year, and breeding fish that can gain weight at quadruple the rate of the original versions, etc). A lot of people have tried farming the fish, some species are more successful than others.
Some of the fish are more sustainable than others, and Greenberg makes the case that we need to choose our “everyday” fish from the fish that are plentiful and easy to raise and which can turn a high percentage of their feed into pounds of meat, and to consider the other fish to be “special occasion” fish. For example, it can take over TWENTY pounds of feed for a bluefin tuna to produce one pound of meat. This is not a good trait for farmed fish, and it also makes tuna inappropriate as a main source of wild caught meals for us. Regular salmon takes up to six pounds of feed to produce a pound of flesh, while breeders have improved farmed salmon to the point where it takes as few as three pounds. This is obviously much better for the environment and the world of “fish as food”--and more sustainable. Yet, the amount of salmon consumed has doubled over the last 20 years, and we are not able to keep up with the demand. Sea bass also requires almost three pounds of feed for every pound of flesh.
Another way to solve this problem would be to select the fish we eat based on how easy they are to farm, and how efficiently they turn feed into flesh—to enable us to have the 2.2 billion pounds of fish that is consumed annually without depleting the resources.
Greenberg's book is compelling and concerning. Destined to become a classic like the iconic Cod!!
The goal of the book is to educate the reader on the pros and cons of wild versus domesticated fish. The author explores every conceivable viewpoint: farmed fish, the intermingling of farmed and domesticated fish, overfishing, genetic modification, fishing subsidies, catch limitations, no catch zones, regulations, etc.
I'm not a sushi lover, but I did try a spicy tuna roll after reading the section on tuna. I also found myself watching the show Wicked Tuna. My takeaway after reading the book is that if we don't make some radical changes soon, we could find ourselves in a situation where the demand outstrips the supply.
The author doesn't just spell out the many problems associated with demand and supply, he offers a number of well thought out solutions. One solution that made a lot of sense to me was switching to a fish more suitable to domestication called a Kona Kampache.
My concern is that many of the solutions the author suggests require government oversight. The problem I see is when you have governments and legislators who believe that regulations are bad or when the people who are responsible for the regulations don't rely on science and fact when making their decisions.
After finishing the book, I headed to a fancy seafood restaurant. I had the Ahi Tuna. My guest had the sea bass. Both were good. Both were expensive. No one has to worry about me consuming too much fish.
The book is a smooth read, but has cumbersome, ponderous moments. A good editor could reduce this text by a good 25%.
Top international reviews
The subject matter is the overfishing of Salmon, Cod, Seabass and Tuna and the history of how these four fish became the frontline of humanity's marine dietry requirements. But make no mistake - this isn't purely an academic look at declining stocks. Nor is it a hysterical propaganda advocating the complete stop on all commercial fishing. Paul Greenberg's book is accessible to everyone and is a very measured, facsinating and important read. He is obviously a lover of the sea and all that is in it but - having spend a number of years fishing himself - he has a balanced and realistic view on the problem of the increase in the human population and it's effect on fish stocks. He looks at the fish farming industries and their effect not just from a stock point of view but also an ecological one. He debates differing ideas on prolonging the stock of these fish (and others) and has his own very valid thoughts on our future role as herders of fish stocks rather than blindly plundering what is there.
The chapter on bluefin Tuna is chilling - but then it should be. But even here Greenberg looks at what we can do to assist stocks and alternative sustainable solutions rather than suggesting an unrealistic ban on all tuna fishing.
Lively, witty, entertaining, sometimes sad but with an infective positive outlook from the planet's last wild food source - this is a great book and definitely worth reading.
Of course, fishing at even the current rate is unsustainable, and the result has been the crashing of stocks around the world. For the four species of Greenberg's book the response to demand outstripping supply has been ever more intense exploitation and the development of aquaculture - fish farming. Greenberg unpicks the problems with both approaches. The problem of overfishing is obvious, but fish farming doesn't fare much better. None of the four species under consideration is by nature a good candidate for domestication, and each of them present serious environmental and welfare problems. We are also left with the crazy situation where even salmon, highly selectively bred to be efficient growers, need to be fed three pounds of wild fish in order to produce one pound of salmon flesh for the table.
Greenberg's conclusion urges that fishing for wild fish should be done only by small-scale, highly environmentally aware local fisherman, and that fish farming needs to take a radically different approach to the one that has so far been popular. Rather than taking species with which we are already familiar, and trying to domesticate them, we should instead select species that are better candidates for domestication, and learn to eat them. This is already beginning to happen with barramundi, tilapia, tra and kahala - all of which are highly efficient producers of protein. Now what is needed is radical action, similar to that which ended whaling, to safeguard the future of many of our wild fish.
Books like this tend to be pessimistic, but Greenberg strikes some positive notes. The vastness of the ocean and the inherent ability of marine life to regenerate means it may not be too late, if only bold moves are made soon. In the meanwhile, this is the sort of book that all consumers of fish should read (and even if the only fish product you ever eat is a fish finger you are most definitely a fish consumer). It will probably put you off buying farmed salmon or sea bass, or a tuna steak or cod & chips, but that in itself is no bad thing. And if it encourages you to pick up a rod and go catch your own mackerel, then that would be no bad thing either, for as Greenberg demonstrates, there is no one who loves a fish so much as someone who has had the pleasure of catching one.
We are indeed spending our capital and not just living on the interest when it comes to sea life. Nature stock and diversity is being destroyed.
On the other hand, We need to eat, and it is inconceivable that we might have to ration, or, even more, go hungry in order to reduce the pace of destruction we are all responsible for.
The author gives us some solutions that are practical, realistic to solve the need to feed homo sapiens, and yet preserve sea life. Read it.
Paul Greenberg is a gifted writer who's enormous passion for his subject is matched by his understanding of the science, politics and economics of the issues.
Consumer choice is a powerful force that drives the economics of fishing practices and aquaculture. This book will inform the choices you make when you buy fish and, in doing that, will make a difference.
Now, there isn't that much technical information on either the fish or the fishing methods. Mostly, this is a book about the sustainability of the four fish mentioned. The author takes the sensible stand that we should be concerned with conservation and minimizing harm to fish stocks, but he certainly isn't a hard-core eco-warrior. Indeed, he goes fishing for, and catches, just about all the species mentioned in this book. Certainly, he eats them all. But perhaps that's why this book was interesting to read. It's full of important messages, but it's not so much preachy as it is a narrative of his own discoveries. The "preaching" is simply facts that he discovered that are pretty clear to anyone remotely interested in a responsible truth. That's probably why I'm giving this book five stars- it made a book about four fish quite interesting to read.
Because the truth is we are increasing our demand for fresh seafood at the same time as global stocks are declining. Fish farming (for most species) doesn't seem to be the answer. That means we'll have to ask ourselves some hard questions sooner or later. If not, we'll end up repeating the sad story of the cod. Much of what's written in this book won't be terribly new to people who know anything about seafood (e.g., big commercial fisherman are bad, Japan's appetite for seafood is problematic, conservation efforts across countries are incredibly challenging, don't let industry regulate itself, etc.). Instead, this book aims to leave the reader more thoughtful about the fish they eat, where they come from, and what likely needs to be done to save them. I'm all for fishing and I strongly support small-scale fishermen, but clearly if we don't seriously reconsider the path we're going down with fishing, something is going to give. And that something is going to be the last few stocks of wild fish.
Der Autor geht dieser Frage in vier Kapiteln nach; jedes einem der vier Fische gewidmet. Jedes Kapitel beginnt mit einem persönlichen Erlebnis des Autors, einer persönlichen Beziehung zu dem jeweiligen Fisch. Das Buch ist also keineswegs trocken, sondern spannend und unterhaltsam geschrieben. Man würde es am liebsten in einem Zug durchlesen. Anschließend kommt ein historischer Abriss, warum der Fisch zu einem der Lieblinge der Fischindustrie wurde, welche Probleme es dabei gab und noch gibt und welche Aussichten der Fisch in der Zukunft hat. Die Wahl jedes einzelnen der vier Fische wird kritisch hinterfragt und Alternativen aufgezeigt. Man lernt so auf unterhaltsame Art enorm viel über den aktuellen Stand der Fischzucht und der Meere.
Der Autor ist selbst passionierter (Amateur-)Fischer und schreibt immer wieder von seinen eigenen Erlebnissen des Fischens. Er übernimmt also nicht einfach die Rolle eines Fischschützers. Vielmehr gibt er eine weitgehend neutrale Bestandsaufnahme, die die Situation der Fische von verschiedenen Seiten zeigt.
Am Ende gibt er aber klare Empfehlungen, wie sich unser Verhältnis zu Fischen und ihrer Zucht entwickeln müsste, damit wir auch in Zukunft noch Wild- und nicht nur domestizierte Fische erleben können. Wenn es um den (Blauflossen-)Thunfisch geht, geht er sogar so weit, ein völliges und dauerhaftes Fangverbot ähnlich wie für Wale zu empfehlen.
"Four fish" steht in bester Tradition von Mark Kurlanskys Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World .