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Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food Hardcover – July 15, 2010
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"Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress"
Is the world really falling apart? Is the ideal of progress obsolete? Cognitive scientist and public intellectual Steven Pinker urges us to step back from the gory headlines and prophecies of doom, and instead, follow the data: In seventy-five jaw-dropping graphs, Pinker shows that life, health, prosperity, safety, peace, knowledge, and happiness are on the rise. Learn more
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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!!
From old times human has taken great pain in domesticating wild creatures to fill up our appetite. The experience of human-controlled reproduction of Atlantic salmon is recorded first in France around the year 1400. Chile now becomes the second-largest salmon-producing nation in the world and produces hundreds of millions. There could be a genetically engineered salmon on the market within a few years. Episode of Sea-Monkey aroused my interest. To rear Sea-Monkey became popular in my childhood. I never imagined it was created to feed sea bass at that time. European sea bass, like salmon, require three pounds of feed for every pound of flesh they grow, while tuna require twenty pounds of forage for every pound of fish they produce. Fish farming has problems of waste management, disease, and industrial pollutants, like terrestrial animal husbandry. We are still not find suitable solution for fishing in the contemporary battles of the food reform and land-based environment movements.
Our choices of fish as food should be large societal ones that require our careful attention and our active political engagement. Also, we need to take a precautionary approach to the very bottom of the oceanic food chain and exploit those animals only after models have been developed. Paul Greenberg advocates four very good, noble, and ultimately effective principles, that is, reduction in fishing, setting no-catch areas, global protection of unmanageable species and protecting bottom of the food chain, will rebuild the seas. In the presence of ominous human demand, where nearly doubled its per-person fish consumption in the last century, he suggests five principles in selecting domesticated animals from the sea to compensate huge gap between wild supply and growing human desire. Efficiency, non destructiveness to a wild system, limited in number, adaptability and polyculture. When we hunt wild fish and eat them, we hunt them with care and eat them with the fullness of our appreciation.
What makes this book very realistic one is his daughter. When Paul Greenberg, who reveals negative comment on eating tuna, selected bluefin tuna carpaccio, she said coolly “Hypocrite” to him. When he noticed in her the sign of rationality and the logic of both catching and saving fish during fishing, he released bluefish into the ocean. Staring into the sea below, she asked “will it live?”
The book is a smooth read, but has cumbersome, ponderous moments. A good editor could reduce this text by a good 25%.