With all of our midwestern talk about sustainably raised land animals, thinking about the fishing industry can often draw a big fat blank. Perhaps the answer is to just eat fewer fish, don't eat those fish which are endangered, look for sustainably caught fish or possibly assume that the ocean is so vast that we could never really deplete it.
Take one look into Four Fish by Paul Greenberg and the issue becomes much more complicated and fascinating. It is one thing to think about trying to control how a herd of cows or a flock of chickens is managed. Consider the vast seas, international borders, politicians, scientists and of course, global demand. Its complicated.
Greenberg brings his fishing background, inspiration from Michael Pollan and a seemingly inexhaustible ability to research and gather information into this book about the fish we eat. The author explains on his website that he chose four fish based on what we eat.
"Across menus and markets, we are starting to come to a consensus on what we're looking for in fish: something pink and succulent like a salmon; something white and meaty, the category that's usually filled by a number of near shore fish that are often called "bass" or "snapper"; something white and flakey that you can deep fry, i.e. codfish; and something that's steak-like and dense for grilling and sushi, like tuna. So we have roughly those four "fish-flesh" types on our menus."
Paul Greenberg--from an interview on fourfish.org
He also shares a lot of insight on some of the problems with the modern fishing industry. It is easy to imagine how more and more we have the upper hand with technology leading the way. Everything from sonar to locate the fish and track them, to advancements in nets that make them more efficient and basically unbreakable. Then there is the whole battle over who has control of the laws of the sea. Imagine trying to make a decision when there are a whole host of governments, scientists and businessmen all at the table trying to gain rights to fish in this billion dollar industry.
In the end, this book will certainly be a fascinating read, offer great discussions and surely change the way you think about fish the next time it is on the menu.
To join one of our book clubs, here is what you need to know:
Minneapolis: Linden Hills Coop, 6:30, Wednesday January the 25th. Events page for more details.
Bemidji: Harmony Coop, 5:30, Thursday January the 26th. Call 218-766-8926 for more details.
"A necessary book for anyone truly interested in what we take from the sea to eat, and how, and why." -Sam Sifton, "The New York Times Book Review."
Writer and life-long fisherman Paul Greenberg takes us on a journey, examining the four fish that dominate our menus: salmon, sea bass, cod, and tuna. Investigating the forces that get fish to our dinner tables, Greenberg reveals our damaged relationship with the ocean and its inhabitants. Just three decades ago, nearly everything we ate from the sea was wild. Today, rampant overfishing and an unprecedented biotech revolution have brought us to a point where wild and farmed fish occupy equal parts of a complex marketplace. "Four Fish" offers a way for us to move toward a future in which healthy and sustainable seafood is the rule rather than the exception.