As far as I’m concerned, Paul Greenburg’s book will mean for fish ecology what Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring has meant for the environmental movement. Greenburg presents portraits of salmon, bass, cod and tuna–four familiar fish that North America and much of the world has eaten for generations. These fish are served on the world’s plate as comfort food, fast food, pantry staples, sushi and more. And they now have an uncertain future as wild fish.
I frequently skip book introductions, but this author engaged me in his by recounting his boyhood tracking of the large-mouth bass that teamed in a pond near his home. As Greenburg grew into young adulthood, his bass hunts spiraled away from the pond to bigger bodies of water in response to the increased scarcity of the fish.
In his introduction, Greenburg connects his boyhood fishing experience to every chapter that follows. His early innocence about a fish-plentiful ocean that belonged, partly, to him (because he claimed it) is perhaps similar to our innocence about the ocean’s perceived abundance. I responded early to the movement for sustainable seafood. I stopped buying Atlantic salmon (nearly 100% of it is farmed). I buy cans of certified sustainable tuna and now avoid raw tuna as an ingredient in my sushi. I severely limit cod as my go-to white fish. But until I read Four Fish… I still thought that there were areas on the planet where these fish still thrived almost undisturbed.
Awareness First Step in Sustaining Wild Fish
What I took away from Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food was awareness that mega-fishing corporations that trawl the ocean bottom and take spawning fish and juveniles along with market-worthy fish are contributing to ocean depletion. Our great, great grandchildren’s enjoyment of tuna, which migrate across the whole ocean, depends upon the world’s countries agreeing not to fish tuna into extinction. Sustainable and ecological fish culture, support for artisan fisherman, and fisheries regulations are a start in preserving healthy oceans and fish.
(The illustration and photo in this article are courtesy of Microsoft, Inc.)