A review of Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food, by Paul Greenberg (2010)
If you eat fish, you should read this book. A play in four acts of fishing, this book provides an up-to-date overview of where our seafood dinners come from and where they are headed in terms of survival or extinction. It’s not all bad news, but you will need to think twice before ordering the salmon.
Cod head is getting harder to find.
The author, a common fisherman and New York Times writer, injects enough personal drama and tidy anecdotes to keep your interest in the science and sustainability issues while avoiding too many confusing numbers. He travels from Alaska to Greece and beyond, and he asks a vital question: with the demand for seafood growing beyond the sea’s ability to produce it, how are we going to feed everyone without destroying the ocean?
The book comes closer than current personal seafood guides to providing a clear answer. Decide which fish are wildlife instead of food, as we did with the whales, and stop eating them completely. He places tuna in that category. Choose fish suitable for aquaculture, such as tilapia, and provide those to the masses. Allow wild caught fish to become wildly expensive, which may reduce demand to sustainable levels. Drop more bombs on Japan.
I made up that last one, but they are guilty for introducing sushi to the masses and turning tuna into a god. Turns out, in the recent past the Japanese didn’t even eat the rare Bluefin tuna because it was too fatty, so giving it up has more to do with global economics than with cultural traditions. Cah-ching! Fish of such value will likely follow the whales into near or actual oblivion.
As for salmon, sea bass, and cod, and other big three, they are also all in decline in the wild and make poor choices for fish farming. Basically, Greenberg concludes that we should be eating other fish. In fact, part of his case seems to promote freshwater fish over saltwater catches. Less salt, more fresh. Give up cod, but go for barramundi. Take tilapia, but leave the grouper alone.
Baccalao, Spanish for cod, is saltfiskur in Icelandic. The world is eating it to death.
Sorry 7 billion humans, but you can’t eat everything that moves. I hear that manatee is delicious, and so are sea turtles and their eggs. But at some point civilization kicks in, and we choose to abstain from eating certain things because they are more valuable as wildlife than as food. We have reached that point for most fish in the sea.