Bottomfeeder: How to Eat Ethically in a World of Vanishing Seafood
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Bottomfeeder: How to Eat Ethically in a World of Vanishing Seafood

4.17 of 5 stars 4.17  ·  rating details  ·  414 ratings  ·  106 reviews
An eye-opening look at aquaculture that does for seafood what Fast Food Nation did for beef.

Dividing his sensibilities between Epicureanism and ethics, Taras Grescoe set out on a nine-month, worldwide search for a delicious—and humane—plate of seafood. What he discovered shocked him. From North American Red Lobsters to fish farms and research centers in China, Bottomfeede...more
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published April 29th 2008 by Bloomsbury USA (first published January 1st 2008)
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This book changed the way I eat, shop, and work. There are practical and easy seafood listings on the "good" "sometimes" and "never" eating lists - so even if you don't read the book, check out the lists. But if you want to know why I don't eat shrimp anymore or why I think sardines are awesome (and delicious) - then actually read the book. Otherwise you'll continue eating the seafood equivalent of a tiger on the food chain, you'll continue eating the endangered species being sold...more
There was plenty in this book that I already knew:
(1) we are ruining the ocean with overfishing and pollution;
(2) farmed salmon is an environmental disaster and not much use in a nutritional sense either;
(3) fishermen do a lousy job of self-policing and they blame the government for putting them out of a job but only because they can't fish as much as they'd like to;
(4) governments do a lousy job of protecting fishing stocks because fishermen are constituents, the fishing industry is an importan...more
A testament to the power of this collection of ugly fish industry underbellies: On finishing this book, I went straight to the supermarket and attempted to make an ethical fish purchase. I bumbled the whole thing, buying rockfish that was mislabeled as Pacific cod, a species that although wild caught, was probably trawled. Before this book, I would have no idea what any of that meant! It's got great information, and is fairly readable, when the author's soap box voice doesn't get too loud. I wil...more
It reminded me that the slowest fish of all - even when it happens to be very swift indeed - is always the one you catch yourself. Grescoe

Taras Grescoe makes a lot of really good statements in this collection of essays, organized around the depleting of protein, (fish), in the collected oceans and seas of our common environment. The impression he makes is that each of us is responsible for addressing the topic as a verifiable and accountable issue, one that is only capable of being remedied with...more
Jul 06, 2011 Tina rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: seafood lovers
very interesting book and very informative. I've been using the Monteray Bay Aquariam seafood guide for some time, but last year I found myself living in China eating jellyfish, sea cucumbers, and so many fish I'd never heard of, wondering if I was helping to extinguish another species from the ocean. I tried parrot fish for the first time recently and thought it quite tasty, and then I learned from the book that they're caught by destroying coral reefs with dynamite or cyanide! I knew salmon fa...more
Grescoe is such a great and evocative writer, that this book - despite some of its depressing content - is a joy to read from beginning to end. Grescoe, in my opinion, is slightly less didactic than Michael Polan (who I very much like, but also can't read without imagining that he would be difficult to stomach if I didn't agree with him). Nonetheless, he does not sacrifice sharing his opinions and clearly demonstrating through anecdotes, research, and personal experience the evidence that inform...more
This was a good book that I would recommend for anyone. It had lots of insite to the fisheries world, that even I was shocked on. As a seafood lover, I now need to reconsider where my seafood is coming from. Also that the asian countries are about killing the fishing industry and sending us toxic, farmed raised food, especially my beloved shrimp.

I thought some of the chapters were a bit long and drawn out on some of the subjects. It was like ok I really get the picture and I am sure some of the...more
Elaine Nelson
Amazing, if discouraging. A tour of fishing around the world, with each chapter focusing on a specific food and location. So: sardines in the Mediterranean, shrimp in India, salmon in BC, bluefin tuna in Japan, etc. He treats his subjects, both fish and human, with sensitivity. Great descriptive language of both the horrible and the sublime.

There's a useful appendix about fishing methods (good, bad, ugly), and specific fish (never, sometimes, always) -- shrimp and tuna in particular come off ver...more
A really good book with lots of information. In fact, that might be my only complaint, too much information. It took me a couple weeks to read it and while I read the book I was paralized with indecision on which seafood I could eat and which would be harmful. Needless to say I ate a lot of vegetarian items that week!
If you like seafood, read this book. It isn't about stopping; it's about knowing where your seafood comes from & how it's caught - or eating healthfully and ethically. Do not eat industrial farmed salmon (organic farmed is okay) or shrimp or any fish from Asia. But there's plenty out there to eat.
The wealth of information in this book is astounding. While jumping a bit from issue to issue (bottom-trawling to antibiotics to overfishing) he does a good summary at the end, and the stories he tells of fisherfolk around the world are wonderful.
Jennifer D

seriously. it's fantastic. it should be required reading for everyone.

here's the thing - i don't eat fish or other seafood. ever. i have an anaphylactic allergy to shellfish and bivalves. as well, most other fish and seafood triggers some fairly bad reactions in my system. husband could live on a mediterranean or portuguese diet and be happy, happy, happy. i am also a very curious person and i want to know what's going on in this world. i have a particular interest in ea...more
Greg Zink
I can't recall exactly when I became interested in seafood sustainability, nor can I come up with a really great explanation of why I care so much. However, sometime in the past year or so I stumbled upon a web article or something similar that piqued my interest, and I've been hooked (too cheesy?) ever since. I started browsing the Monterey Bay Aquarium's website and others to make sure I educated myself about how my seafood choices are affecting the world on a larger scale. And partway into th...more
Nov 29, 2008 Heather marked it as to-read
"From Publishers Weekly
In this whirlwind, worldwide tour of fisheries, Grescoe (The Devil's Picnic) whiplashes readers from ecological devastation to edible ecstasy and back again. In disturbing detail, he depicts the turbid and murky Chesapeake Bay, where, with overharvested oysters too few to do their filtering job, fish are infested with the cell from hell, a micro-organism that eats their flesh and exposes their guts. He describes how Indian shrimp farms treated with pesticides, antibiotics...more
A few years back, Taras Grescoe wrote an entertaining travel/food book called the Devil's Picnic, which described his quest to try prohibited foods and beverages, including absinthe and raw milk cheese. His most recent book, Bottomfeeder, is just as entertaining, but also describes a serious global problem, namely, the devasation to the world's ecosystems caused by man's appetite for seafood.

Grescoe visits the home of many seafoods to show how the market for food is crushing seafood stocks. In t...more
A most excellent book on the current state of our world's fisheries and the humans who depend on them, and, of course, destroy them. Many books have been published the last decade about the harmful effects of industrialized food production and this is one of those books, focusing on seafood instead of corn, beef, chicken, and the omnipresent plague of Fast Food. It's true that most of these kind of books can get a little preachy which is tiresome, but the education we get from them is invaluable...more
Daniel Roy
Most of us by now are familiar about the inhumane and destructive aspects of industrial meat, but we tend to assume that seafood is alright, except for a few exceptions such as dolphin bycatch in tuna fishing, or whale-hunting.

That's why "Bottomfeeder" came as such a - needed - shock to me, and probably will to you. Taras Grescoe exposes the underlying political, social, environmental and health impacts surrounding the complex world of seafood, from Atlantic cod to oyster farming, and from India...more
I found this a profoundly depressing book. It is a very important, well written, well researched, and humorous book, but depressing nevertheless. I knew that the seas were being over-exploited, that fish and shrimp farming are causing diseases and habitat loss, but it is the speed and breath-taking greed and stupidity that is so jaw-dropping. It’s estimated that we have already stripped the oceans of over 90% of large ocean fish; illegal fishing continues apace, barbaric practices such as shark...more
Isaac Yuen
Someone compared this to a seafood version of the Omnivore’s Dilemma. While I don’t think Grescoe is quite as philosophical and illuminating about his adventures into seafood as Pollan was about his meals, there were still quite a few aspects of the book that were fascinating, even to the most seafood conscious of consumers. One of the things I liked was that he gave credit where credit is due, even if it IS McDonald’s sourcing sustainable shrimp, or his praise of the Japanese’s incredibly detai...more
Absolutely fantastic. Consider this the "Omnivore's Dilemma" of seafood. What I really liked about it was it's completely balanced approach to the topic.

There was very little (if any) demonizing. There was almost no dogma. There was alot of love for fisherman and others who work hard to bring fish to our tables, and there was even more love for seafood itself.

Everyone asked me: "After reading this, I suppose you're not going to eat fish, are you?" Boy, are they wrong. I think I'll eat more of it...more
I was thinking of giving this a "3" - the myriad details within a common theme led all chapters - each a regional/nation-focused discussion - to blend together into depressing soup, and it took me months to finish the book. I hate it when a writer takes a narrow set of facts and blows these up inapproppriately - and potentially misleadingly. At the scale of book-wide themes, this isn't an issue. But when I read in the chapter on salmon that temperate rainforests of the Pacific Northwest "owe the...more
Jim Jewell
I really enjoyed this book, but had to dock it a star on reconsideration. Grescoe does a great job getting into the social, political, historical, scientific, ethical and culinary aspects of fishing around the world, and in general I like his tone and pacing. But after the first two chapters dragged a bit, I learned that he sometimes went into deeper detail in some sections than I found interesting, e.g. the important dates in the development of a localized fishing alliance. So, as I continued,...more
I learned a lot from this book.

I gave up land animals a while ago, but still ate fish up until December of last year. I decided to give up seafood after watching the movie The COVE, truthfully when I decided to give up seafood I was not sure if I could do it forever, I mean I love seafood... land animals wasn't difficult for me , but the thought of giving up fish well, i definately had my doubts, still do sometimes.

After reading this book let me tell you I feel more determined to stick to my g...more
I like the idea of this book, but the subtitle "how to eat ethically in a world of vanishing seafood" is inaccurate. Grescoe is a journalist who likes to travel and write about the people and things he finds. Only the appendix truly addresses the subtitle, and even it screams for more information about all the things we see on menus and at the grocery store. Frankly, the website does that much better.

This book is very accessible though and makes you ask questions like "why...more
Aug 14, 2008 Donna rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone who eats seafood
Shelves: nonfiction, science
This book does for the seafood industry what "Fast Food Nation" did for the beef industry. I alternated between feeling disgusted and hungry as I read. The only thing that would have made it better is if it included photographs. Grescoe thoroughly researched the topic, spending a year and a half traveling around the globe to interview fishermen, fish farmers, fishmongers, chefs, scientists, activists, and fellow seafood eaters. Some people may dismiss his claims as alarmist hyperbole, but they a...more
Many people are increasingly concerned about the source of our food -- in terms of both ethics and sustainability, and rightly so. Bottomfeeder is incredibly eye-opening, even if you think you know what's going on in the world's oceans.

The writer is Canadian and travels around the globe looking at the seafood situation in the wild and in terms of aquaculture, also touching on regional specialties and cultural delicacies. It’s also pretty well-rounded; Grescoe talks to local fishermen, massive co...more
Aside from already being vegan, this book was a great if harrowing wake-up call to the rapid depletion of our world's oceans. Cheap seafood comes with a monumental price for the environment, for poorer countries, and for the future. I recommmend this book highly to anyone, regardless of their dietary status.
Having been interested in the state of the oceans for several years now, I didn't gain a lot of new information about how to eat sustainably from this book, although I did learn some interesting tidbits about other topics (such as the existence of sabretooth salmon and why sailboats were used for so long in Chesapeake Bay) and some more up-to-date numbers for fish populations and dead zones. I really liked this book, though, because I thought Grescoe gave a good overview of the problems the ocea...more
Nov 03, 2008 Laurie added it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Laurie by: Matthew
Shelves: nonfiction, wms-order
Not just a fascinating book about seafood, but an excellent piece of food writing, and a detailed look at the lives and work of people around the world. Grescoe sketches memorable portraits of fishing regions from New England to India, the South of France to British Columbia. While some of what he shares is horrifying, the book left me with a strong desire to eat MORE seafood, especially the small fish he recommends. I've also started taking fish oil capsules, to make me smart. Recommended.

Alene Onion
I read this just after reading Barbara Kingsolver's Animal Vegetable Miracle. It felt very similar in the sense that it asks us to think about where our food comes from because these choices have environmental, cultural, and health impacts. This book was rich with information and detail but it flowed nicely. It brought to life the back stories for different sea food entrees. I actively avoid shrimp and salmon now and I'm interested in trying sardines (something that has never tempted me before!)...more
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the dreaded do not eat list 1 9 Aug 29, 2009 10:13AM  
  • The End of the Line: How Overfishing Is Changing the World and What We Eat
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  • Deeply Rooted: Unconventional Farmers in the Age of Agribusiness
  • The End of Food: How the Food Industry Is Destroying Our Food Supply--And What You Can Do about It
  • The End of Food
  • Stuffed And Starved: Markets, Power And The Hidden Battle For The World Food System
  • American Wasteland: How America Throws Away Nearly Half of Its Food (and What We Can Do About It)
  • Organic, Inc.: Natural Foods and How They Grew
  • Righteous Porkchop: Finding a Life and Good Food Beyond Factory Farms
  • The Fruit Hunters: A Story of Nature, Obsession, Commerce, and Adventure
  • Seeds of Deception: Exposing Industry and Government Lies about the Safety of the Genetically Engineered Foods You're Eating
  • How to Pick a Peach
  • The World According to Monsanto: Pollution, Corruption, and the Control of the World's Food Supply
  • Appetite for Profit: How the Food Industry Undermines Our Health and How to Fight Back
  • Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food
  • Squeezed: What You Don't Know About Orange Juice
  • Safe Food: Bacteria, Biotechnology, and Bioterrorism
Taras Grescoe was born in 1967. He writes essays, articles, and books. He is something of a non-fiction specialist.

His first book was Sacré Blues, a portrait of contemporary Quebec that won Canada's Edna Staebler Award for Non-Fiction, two Quebec Writers' Federation Awards, a National Magazine Award (for an excerpted chapter), and was short-listed for the Writers' Trust Award. It was published in...more
More about Taras Grescoe...
Straphanger: Saving Our Cities and Ourselves from the Automobile Devil's Picnic Sacré Blues: An Unsentimental Journey Through Quebec The End of Elsewhere: Travels Among the Tourists dead seas

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