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Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food

4.04  ·  Rating details ·  5,807 ratings  ·  600 reviews
In Four Fish, award-winning writer and lifelong fisherman Paul Greenberg takes us on a culinary journey, exploring the history of the fish that dominate our menus — salmon, sea bass, cod, and tuna — and investigating where each stands at this critical moment in time.

He visits Norwegian megafarms that use genetic techniques once pioneered on sheep to grow millions of pound
Hardcover, 284 pages
Published July 15th 2010 by Penguin Press (first published June 28th 2010)
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Average rating 4.04  · 
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 ·  5,807 ratings  ·  600 reviews

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Apr 19, 2012 rated it really liked it
My opinion of this book can be encapsulated by an actual conversation I had on the train after putting the book away before disembarking:

Nice stranger lady: "Were you just reading the fish book by Greenberg?"
Me: "Why yes, I was."
NSL: "Isn't it an amazing book?"
Me: "You know, it really is. I'm really enjoying it, it's very good."
NSL: "I also enjoyed it very much."
Me: "Know what I find most interesting about it?"
NSL: "What's that?"
Me: "It's about the most boring topic in the world, yet I'm enthral
May 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
A very personal journey by Greenberg helps clarify many of the issues faced by those who want to continue to source their protein in our planet's oceans.

I liked his approach and my book group found plenty to discuss from his personal descriptions.
Sep 19, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This is essentially a policy book about how to sustainably manage wild fish and meet rising demand will require a mix of government controls on fishing and on carefully regulated aquaculture.

Some fish make less sense than others for aquaculture, and Greenberg introduces a number of fish that seem well-suited for aquaculture, due to their low dependency on fish feed. Some fish, like salmon, require a diet of fish meal that makes raising them a net loss on sea life. Others are vegetarian or, at l
Oct 11, 2011 rated it really liked it
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 mind ...more
Apr 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I don't read many current-affairs polemics--I tend to think you can learn all you need to know about these books from an interview with the author--but Four Fish is right at the top of its category. Paul Greenberg, a lifelong fisherman, is also quite a writer. That makes his status update on fish as easy to read as it is informative.

Without spoiling anything, most of the fish we eat are being caught way beyond the rate of replacement. Legal limits on fishing work if they're based on science, an
Lisa Dunckley
Mar 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Four Fish makes fish INTERESTING—and I don't even eat fish! The four fish that are investigated are the Tuna, the Salmon, the Bass, and the Cod—the four fish that dominate the menus at fancy restaurants and fast food chains and family dinner tables.

The underlying premise is that globally we are overfishing. We are harvesting more fish every year than are produced. In some cases we have less than 10% of the fish that were there when commercial fishing started. This is obviously not sustainable.
Nov 15, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: seafood lovers, marine biologists
I haven't read Mark Kurlansky's Cod, but this book is clearly capitalizing on the popularity of that book. Paul Greenberg even interviews Kurlansky and has the rather more famous writer sample a variety of wild, farmed, and organic cod to see if he can taste the difference. I guess I can't blame Greenberg for playing "gotcha" with a more famous author who made his reputation on a book about one fish species, but it seemed like he was trying a little too hard.

This book is another of what the auth
Aug 09, 2011 rated it really liked it
It's a story of unintended consequences. Farmed Fish is a big idea response to pressures on the wild fish stock in the commercial fisheries. It holds promise, but has primarily worsened the circumstances of the wild stock while degrading the fish we eat. Sadly, most fish farming is based on false logic, erroneous assumptions, and a green ideology that uses simplistic, and often untrue, stories to stir emotional reactions and garner political power. Two axioms should be held sacrosanct in this an ...more
Isaac Yuen
Sep 05, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Four Fish provided a very good overview of the state of wild fisheries and fish farms through the eyes of someone who genuinely cares about fish and fishing. After reading Bottomfeeder, I was wary that it may cover a lot of similar terrain, but this actually provided an interesting and thought-provoking perspective about how people view fish. There were some really intriguing insights here. For example, salmon was perceived to be a luxury item, brought down to the masses. Cod was perceived to be ...more
Oct 12, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Where do I start? This book single-handedly knocked the ignorance right out of me, not the part that highlighted human greed, but the part that never quite understood what "farmed" fish meant, the extent to which we have manipulated/destroyed their breeding environment and overturned their own biological makeup sometimes for the sake of profit, other times for the very real necessity of eradicating hunger, nor that it had been hypocritical of me to relinquish red "meat" while believing that turn ...more
Nov 09, 2013 rated it really liked it
The book is written by a journalist who writes predominantly for the New York Times and focuses on fish, aquaculture and the future of the oceans. The book seems to be a fairly balanced report that concentrates on the state and future of the four fish: salmon, sea bass, cod and tuna. Why these ones, and why four? Well, there are apparently four mammals that humanity chose to domesticate: cows, sheep, goats and pigs, and four birds: chickens, geese, ducks and turkeys, so following that pattern an ...more
Dec 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've read some great nonfiction this year. Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI, The Secret Knowledge of Water, and Cadillac Desert: The American West and Its Disappearing Water, for instance, were all 2018 reads that will stick with me for some time. And yet I'd put this up against any of those works.

I'll admit that at various points I was frustrated with the organization of the 4 chapters, but by book's close, I don't know that I would have organized the mater
Jan 11, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: environment
Paul Greenberg writes about four fish: salmon, tuna, bass, and cod. He also includes stories about other fish and marine life. The subtitle says it all: "The Future of the Last Wild Food." And the future is not good. So what can I do about it? I mean, I only want to live the rest of my life trying to do the right thing. Why is that so hard? In this case, it really is tricky. Small steps are not making enough of a difference right now.

For one thing, I will never eat bluefin tuna. For another, I w
Aug 17, 2011 rated it really liked it

Do you ever wonder where that fish on your plate comes from, or how many of its brothers and sisters are still around? Do you wonder why there are only a couple of fish that are available to order at restaurants or buy at the grocery store? Paul Greenberg fished as a child does first in local ponds and streams near his home. As he grew older he bought a boat and began fishing in lakes and then in bays and coastal areas. As an adult he chartered boats and the ocean became his pond. Upon returning
Aug 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
Very cool book. Somehow it makes you both want to never taste fish again for sustainability, and at the same time, very hungry for fish. Lots of good information, but doesn't read like a textbook.

(Read for ECOL 360 Spring 20)
Dana Stabenow
Feb 13, 2013 rated it liked it
Worth reading alone for the lyrical evocation of the author's childhood years in his introduction, as in

Fishing was the one constant during these years. Sensing in it a masculine, character-building quality my mother arranged it so that the cottages we rented always had access to streams and lakes or abutted other properties we could trespass upon that had such resources. She trusted my instincts for spotting fishy water and used me as a kind of diving rod before signing a lease. And for most of
Bookmarks Magazine
Oct 11, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nov-dec-2010
Many of the critics called upon to review Paul Greenberg's Four Fish are themselves environmental writers or experts of some kind. It is a measure of the book's quality that even those who significantly disagreed with Greenberg endorsed Four Fish as one of the best primers for readers who want to learn how the seafood they eat relates to the future of the ocean. Their support may result from Greenberg's pragmatic solutions for improving aquaculture and avoidance of ideological confrontation. But ...more
Aug 14, 2010 rated it liked it
This book makes me sad. People are so greedy and short-sighted about their eating habits that we have nearly depleted rivers, lakes and oceans of once plentiful fish.

The book was well-written and enjoyable, but I really hate it how, even now in 2010, an author can use male pronouns and not think to interview a single female in nearly 300 pages of narrative. (Actually, I think he managed to find a female PR rep but nobody in the fishing industry.)
Jada Tullos
Jun 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
Great book! Engaging, diverse, and surprisingly full of factual information. A must-read for, well, everyone, I think. Everyone who eats food, that is. :)
You'll come away well-versed in the most pressing issues facing our oceans and our seafood, but you won't feel like you had to suffer to gain that knowledge-Greenberg is a great story teller.
Jun 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I learned so many things about each of the four fishes. The book gives a lot of context about the history, environment, characteristics, modern farming practices, and more around each fish.
Sep 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This was an exceptional read for a timely and important subject. It's sat on my shelf for years after getting it at an event and I finally jumped in and read it. Looking at it through 10 years time since publishing, it's been interesting to see how some of the sections apply to the current time. Take the Salmon section and Yukon River salmon. A year or two before this book was published, I remember getting a Yukon River King at Whole Foods. It was probably one of the greatest fish dishes I've ev ...more
Aug 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: pop-nonfic
thought-provoking and important! this book was written 10 years ago though so would appreciate an update. it is so funny how individual activism and action to improve the world pales in comparison to what powerful governments and large corporations can do but governments just won't do it! ...more
Apr 27, 2011 rated it really liked it
A sport fisherman examines the fate of the world’s last wild food.

Four Fish: The Future of the last Wild Food by Paul Greenburg examines the condition of the Earth’s fisheries by focusing on four fish: salmon, sea bass, cod and tuna. Any book that addresses natural resources and humanity’s treatment of them has high potential to be very depressing. Greenburg however, outlines several options that combine strategies for wild-catch commercial fishing, aquaculture, and preservation that combined, m
Susan Rainwater
Sep 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
Open your cooking magazine, and you will find a recommendation to eat fish twice a week. If we actually followed those recommendations using wild-caught fish, we would fish the oceans into extinction in about a decade.

So what is the future of fish as food? That’s the subject of this fascinating book.

Four Fish is in many respects a companion book to Mark Kurlansky’s Cod. It’s about (no surprise) the four most common food fish — salmon, sea bass, cod, and tuna — in the world diet.

Greenburg is pu
Travis Beckman
Sep 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Greenberg perfectly captures the stages a once young and naive fisherman goes through in realizing the waters they grew up fishing will not remain so if we do not make the transition from being purely harvesters to stewards. I know this because I myself have gone through the same troubling realization. Though I’ve come a long way from the days where I begged my Dad to keep every fish we caught, there is still so much work to do in order to, as Greenberg states is necessary, change humanity’s vie ...more
Brian Griffith
Aug 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: animals
I love the way this guy talks. His childhood stories flow seamlessly into the story of all humanity in relation to sea creatures. The book's structure builds both forward in time and outward into ever-deeper water. I'd seen various deeply disturbing accounts about our systematic destruction of the sea. But this is a far more conversationally problem-solving approach, considering the merits of various practical experiments to manage fish better. I was fascinated to learn of bright spots, where pe ...more
Sep 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Really interesting look at a major industry’s supply chain, wonderfully told by a journalist who also happens to be a fisherman. As someone who’s grown up eaten a lot of fish and worked in the processed meat industry, i was amazed at how little I know about the gills that end up on my plate. Highly recommend to anyone who’s curious to learn about how we capture, breed, and sell the last wild food.
Dec 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Loved it. Despite knowing more about fisheries management than the average person, this book challenged some of my thinking and shifted my perspectives on fisheries and aquaculture. Will definitely think of fish more as “wildlife first, food second” going forward.

Less scientifically heavy than I had feared, the book is strengthened with the author’s personal experiences and reflections.

Only wish it was more recent. A lot changes in 10 years.
Feb 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
This book is important. We need to educate more people on sustainable seafood if we want to continue enjoying it. Although this book could have included more science and less fishing escapades, the author did make it clear that he understands where a lot of Americans are at; torn between conservation and delicious seafood that restaurants and markets tell us are the best.
นรินทร์ โอฬารกิจอนันต์
Good but need to cut unnecessary info (like the author travel details) to save the readers time
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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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