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American Catch: The Fight for Our Local Seafood

4.13  ·  Rating details ·  757 ratings  ·  97 reviews

"Greenberg’s breezy, engaging style weaves history, politics, environmental policy, and marine biology." --New Yorker

In American Catch, award-winning author Paul Greenberg takes the same skills that won him acclaim in Four Fish to uncover the tragic unraveling of the nation’s seafood supply—telling the surprising
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published June 26th 2014 by Penguin Press
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Average rating 4.13  · 
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The huge salmon filet that I bought and cooked for my family a few nights ago was both incredibly delicious and simple. I seasoned it with some kosher salt, freshly ground pepper, and Californian extra virgin olive oil. I then broiled it for a just a few minutes, until the skin started crackling, then topped it with more olive oil and fresh dill. Of course, it would have been a sin to cook it all the way through: I like my salmon fairly rare in the center. And there's the rub: I only feel comfor ...more
Jul 13, 2014 rated it liked it
A polemical companion to "Four Fish," but not quite as strong. The general thesis is that America used to have (and in many cases still does have) significant seafood resources but we have wasted, destroyed, or ignored them. In their place, we rely upon largely foreign-produced seafood, while exporting our best stuff abroad. There's a fair amount of focus on us exporting things to China, which may be wrong but is hard to not view as a slightly xenophobic argument. But the parts in here about the ...more
Peggy Page
Jul 19, 2014 rated it really liked it
A different take on the fisheries crisis, this book is not about over-fishing but about the strange paradox of where American fish wind up, and what fish wind up on American plates. Greenberg makes a good case for his chief concern: that the lack on appetite (literally) for wild caught local fish leads Americans to be careless about the health of the ecosystems which sustain those fish. He claims, no doubt correctly, that Americans don't like wild fish because they don't want to touch it, don't ...more
Jun 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
Excellent, readable disquisition on the state of American fisheries and the state of the seafood industry. Think that sounds boring? It is not, I assure you. Greenberg focuses on three fisheries, oyster, shrimp and salmon, but he does so much more. Fittingly, I read this book mostly while sailing from Wilmington, NC to Beaufort, NC ten miles or more offshore. It scares me the rate at which we are depleting the seas of their fish and other creatures, and how quickly we are filling the seas with o ...more
Brianna Bowman
Jun 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
I had read Paul Greenburg's other well-known book, Four Fish, and knew that I would gain much needed insight from American Catch. The dilemma that Greenburg presents - Americans exporting a majority of seafood that we catch, and importing a majority of what we consume - was something that was brought to my attention when I worked for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife for a summer. I was aware of a lot of ocean caught salmon being brought in to ports in Astoria, and yet it was surprising ...more
Nicole Means
Mar 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
"American Catch" reminds us that as the appetite of consumerism of the developed world becomes insatiable, our coastlines suffer. Big companies listen to our unrealistic demands for year-round supplies of fruits, vegetables, and fish. Greenberg tells the story of the ill-impacts of our seafood as a global economy through the history of three American favorites: oysters, salmon, and shrimp. Having lived in Louisiana for over 30 years, the chapter on shrimp and its bleak future on American shores ...more
Travis Beckman
Dec 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Paul Greenberg’s writing is Aldo Leopold meets Albert Camus, presenting the sea’s beauty and generosity while grasping with its seemingly antagonistic dual existence as an economic entity. This book simultaneously makes me proud and ashamed to be an American fisherman and seafood consumer, but also shows us a way to reshape our relationship with the ocean to assure its vital presence in the lives of Americans for generations to come.
Curt Fox
May 01, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
Via Goodreads First Reads:

Paul Greenberg has set some lofty expectations among his readers, and as in previous books, he's lived up to them quite capably.
This book focuses on three sea creatures, the sockeye salmon, the Louisiana brown shrimp, and the Eastern oyster. And he seems to structure it by ascending hopefulness for the species in terms of edibility and continued availablility, from the dire state of the oyster, to the on-the-fence status of the shrimp, to the cautiously sunny outlook f
Steve Peifer
Aug 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing
First of all, above all, this guy can write. This is as compelling of a read as I've had in awhile. About my favorite thing in non-fiction is to be surprised and become interested in something new. This is about seafood, and the ecology and economics and politics that surround it. Absolutely fascinating reading. If you get on the internet and look up how to order Alaskan sockeye salmon direct from a fishermen, my guess is that you won't be the only one. ...more
Ginny Stuckey
Read it! The downside of reading books about our food is that I realize I'm eating garbage and am destroying the world most days; BUT the upside is that I learn what I could be doing better. And the kind folks as Whole Goods are always so accommodating when I develop new questions about the source of my supper. ...more
Cameron DeHart
Aug 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: listened
Really great book, in part, because it is the right length. Greenberg's other book, "Four Fish", was packed full of information and more difficult to follow in the car. In "American Catch", Greenberg focuses on three quintessentially American marine animals - New York oysters, Louisiana shrimp, and Alaskan salmon - to explore and explain the sad state of seafood in the U.S. today. It can be hard to tell sometimes, but the U.S. is still a major fishing nation in terms of the square miles of ocean ...more
Oct 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
"All that the sea asks of us is that we be wise in our harvest, recognize the limits of its bounty, and protect the places where seafood wealth is born. In return the sea will feed us and make us smarter, healthier, and more resilient."

What makes for great nonfiction writing, in my opinion, is passion. Greenberg is a hands-on researcher and environmental advocate, but he's also a fisherman. His texts ring with authenticity and true appreciation for his subject matter, making him one of my
Heather Snowe
Jan 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
I found myself at the end of this book before I even suspected that I was close. This happened because apparently 40% of the book is endnotes, which is neither here nor there but does say something about a book's construction and documentation. This is a book about American fisheries, with an agenda focused on raising awareness about seafood as a natural resource that United Statesians should be both protecting and consuming. It's presented in 3 sections meant to show U.S. fisheries at different ...more
Dec 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I haven't finished this book yet (though it is a fast read), but I'm already giving it a 5.

There is a lot of information in here that most people already know, but it was instructive to have it all assembled in one place - and there's also a lot of new information I learned. Clearly, right now my interest has swerved to non-fiction books, particularly well written topical ones. I think I'll just start reading NPR-recommended books for a while. (And "son-in-law" recommended!)

Reading this will cha
Oct 17, 2020 rated it liked it
Enjoyed the sections on shrimp and oysters more than the Bristol Bay salmon section. Probably a result of being too close to the situation but also some sloppy writing - calling Bristol Bay elders "Eskimos" just pages before referencing a white artisanal fisherman's "Portland hipster with Athabascan heritage".

I think we're in broad agreement that reengineering the coasts/estuaries to be more biologically sound is the only way forward with impending sea-level rise, and that keeping seafood withi
Jan 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
Another fascinating book from Greenberg. I learned so much about how our fisheries get ravaged. It points to the sad state of American fisheries, from years of overfishing, pollution, and cheap imported farmed fish. "But American fishermen are going extinct. Having lost their market share to the bargain-basement prices offered by foreign aquaculture, American fishermen can no longer compete."
I feel blessed to live in a place where commercial fishing still thrives and where wild fresh-caught fish
Scott Thomas
Oct 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This was such an easy book to read even though it handles an extremely complex and nuanced subject. He breaks the book into three distinct sections about oysters, shrimp, and salmon or how we destroyed seafood, how we are currently destroying seafood, and how we might destroy seafood in the future.

Obviously, this can be a very depressing topic to read/learn about, but Paul Greenberg does a great job of not making it too bleak. He ends each section on ways local non-profits, businesses, or gover
Barry Bridges
Apr 14, 2019 rated it liked it
One man's opinion of our waters and our fault in the destruction of vital habitat. I was buying in, working through the thought-provoking history of the loss of oysters on the Eastern Seaboard, until the author finally encounters an actual New York oyster. I am thinking, catch and release, we will grow some more, but his guide opens the oyster up and Greenberg eats it. That soured my taste on the rest of his work and his conclusions. Like the global warming evangelist travelling is a private 737 ...more
Chris Leuchtenburg
Jun 22, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: nature, nonfiction
This is really three magazine articles lengthened and assembled as a book. Some of the stories are interesting, but the analysis left me unconvinced. For instance, he argues that one of the biggest problems with our seafood supply is international trade. He is incensed that we sell salmon to China and buy shrimp from Vietnam. The other problems that he sites, the dead shores of Manhattan, the erosion of the Mississippi Delta, the replacement of Asian mangrove forests with shrimp farms, etc. appe ...more
May 25, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: audiobook
When I mentioned starting this book, a friend said "that sounds depressing." They weren't wrong. This book was certainly interesting and very informative, with deep dives (pun intended) into New York oyster, Louisiana shrimp, and Alaskan salmon populations and what they've faced. It's certainly written from a pro-fishing point of view, and I thought he spent far too little time on the issue of by-catch. But, as the seafarer's version of Michael Pollan's Botany of Desire, this was a good overview ...more
Oct 18, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Worth the read - Greenberg has a fact-filled yet still easy-to-read style that is quick to get through and interesting along the way.

Compared to what I recall of Four Fish (need to re-read!) he’s a little preachy here, and I don’t think the three example fisheries - oyster, shrimp, and salmon - quite capture the intended message he lays out in the introduction and recaps in the conclusion.

Interesting by themselves for sure, but his story telling doesn’t seemed focused enough to meet the framin
More reviews available at my blog, Beauty and the Bookworm.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I love food. And of all the foods I love, seafood is at the very top of that list. When I was in high school, if I got straight As, my dad would take me out for all-you-can-eat snow crab legs at one of our favorite restaurants. In more recent times, I've dragged my boyfriend out on a quest for fried clams because I decided I had to have them right now, and then spent a week in Maine eating sea
Sep 21, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was a really enlightening book, especially the chapter about oysters. My only complaints were that the oyster section was so engaging, the others less so, and I would have liked more information about how I as a consumer can help make the change to local seafood. That aside, there is so much great information in this book that it should be required reading for anyone who eats seafood or wants to eat seafood regularly!
May 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you liked his previous book, you will really like this one too. It's an in-depth examination of all the history of how we eat fish in America. It focuses on oysters, then shrimp, then salmon - putting them in context of health, environment and the economy. I'm pretty picky on science writing, but this is really excellent. ...more
Jul 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Wanted to learn more about efforts in NY to restock oysters after watching the YouTube story by Zagat. And after reading about shrimp and salmon industry, you learn about the people that strive to keep these ecosystems sustainable, local and national government regulations, international trade practices, and ultimately what ends up on our plate.
Crystal Forbes
Dec 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating read - I plowed through it in a couple of days. Highly recommend to anyone who enjoys eating local! Renewed my interest and taste for seafood and continued engagement in environmental protection.
Jul 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: commodities
Good overview of oysters, shrimp, and salmon in the US. Gives the past, present, and future of fishing major species in the US. Interesting advocacy of how our approach to seafood should be. Not necessarily balanced but a good read
Jan 10, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I would argue this novel is better than Four Fish, Greenberg's previous well known novel about the seafood industry. The portion on oysters was particularly meaningful, as I have lived in the Chesapeake Bay region my entire life. His personal adventures and narration do not take away from the factual and history-based value of the book. ...more
Winnie Yeung
Jul 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Americans should support American local seafood that helps preserve ecosystem. Oysters are good for the environment, wild shrimps are in decline in the gulf. Alaska salmon are mostly exported to China. Should support CSF.
Jan 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Not the best prose, but
every responsible seafood eater must read this book.
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Paul Greenberg is the New York Times bestselling author of Four Fish, American Catch, The Omega Principle and Goodbye Phone, Hello World. A regular contributor to the Times and many other publications, Mr. Greenberg is the winner of a James Beard Award for Writing and Literature, a Pew Fellow in Marine Conservation and the writer-in-residence at the Safina Center. He has been featured on Fresh Air ...more

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