Happyreader's Reviews > Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food

Four Fish by Paul Greenberg
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Oct 11, 11

really liked it
bookshelves: food-and-drink, history-politics, nature, science
Read in October, 2011

Who would have guessed after going into such depth about the state of the fish we eat that the author would conclude by revealing that he’s unsettled by people continually asking him which fish they should eat. I understand that he considers global fishing and environmental policy changes to be primary and necessary and that if one consumer doesn’t eat tuna, another will so we’re shouldn’t delude ourselves that we’re saving fish solely by our consumer choices. Plus, he promotes shifting our mindsets to think of fish as not just food, that we should be harvesting and managing more sustainably, but also as wildlife to be preserved for our planetary health. Great points. Yet where else can we begin but with our own individual consumption choices? Shouldn’t the answer be that we both change our eating patterns AND advocate for policy change? Mind you, despite being disturbed by the question, he doesn't push for abstaining from eating fish and he does mention fish he thinks are suitable and unsuitable for widespread consumption. For instance, he discusses the advantages of choosing aquaculture-friendly fish such as barramundi, tilapia, tra, and Kona kampachi (although good luck finding any of those, save tilapia, in stores or on restaurant menus). Yet don't bother with farmed cod or tuna, both because of the huge food energy inputs (20 lbs of fish feed to get one lb of tuna flesh) and lower quality fish outputs.

I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in learning more about the issues surrounding fish sustainability, fish farming, and oceanic ecosystems. Learn more about the sex lives of fish. Heck, read it for no other reason than to update yourself on the cod situation if you’ve already read Mark Kurlansky’s Cod (there’s a great section where the author has Mark taste test various wild and farm-raised cod). Mind you, the book won’t answer all your sustainable fish questions. For instance, while reading the book, I ate at San Diego's Sea Rocket Bistro, a restaurant known for serving only sustainable fish and where they offered albacore tuna fished off the California coast. Is albacore less endangered than bluefin? Was that truly a sustainable fish choice? One revelation is that sustainability has never been clearly defined and the goal levels for fish stocks may be set too low for true sustainability, making my albacore question difficult to answer.

BTW, the cod are doing better but permanent damage may have been done to their size and former levels of abundance and bluefin tuna are in serious danger of collapsing entirely. So don’t eat bluefin tuna. I’m telling you, it’s near to impossible to talk about the fish we eat without asking which fish we should or shouldn't eat.
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