Monday, July 26, 2010

The limits of the sea

Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild FoodI recently finished an excellent book I received through Amazon Vine. I was very surprised at how much I enjoyed reading Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food.

Mankind has often looked upon the ocean as a bountiful place capable of providing a near-endless supply of food. We even sort of romanticize those who brave the elements, from Moby Dick and yesterday's whalers to today's "Deadliest Catch." And for reasons of abundance or convenience or perhaps just taste, we've settled upon four main fish which serve as our principal "seafood": salmon, bass, cod, and tuna. But, as fishing has become increasingly commercial and efficient, we're in danger of destroying the wild populations of these fish and the ecosystems that produce and depend upon them.

Paul Greenburg has written an excellent and surprisingly readable book about our relationship with the sea and its bounty. He does this not from a solely environmentalist perspective, but also as a fisherman and one who enjoys eating fish. He discusses the advantages of wild vs. farmed fish and the destructive practices of each which imperil future stocks. With farming, in particular, the four are very poor candidates for captive rearing although the lessons learned so far have been invaluable and can be applied to other species. He also explores potential replacement species against a checklist of qualities that should ensure greater success (the same qualities that have been proven in terrestrial farming).

I've never been a huge eater of seafood, although I've recently begun ordering it more often when we eat out. But I most appreciated the scientific aspect of the book that seeks to find the best possible balance, moving beyond the simple red or green seafood cards to maximizing a sustainable harvest while protecting resources. He acknowledges there are no easy answers, but perhaps leans a little too heavily on regulation as if illegal poaching wouldn't increase with such measures. Nonetheless, I think his suggestions are worthwhile and a good starting point. Overall, an important read for all those who are concerned about the future of the oceans and the "last wild food."

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