National Fisherman


Four Fish
The Future of the Last Wild Food
By Paul Greenberg
Penguin Press, 2010
Hardcover, 284 pp., $25.95

Last call of the wild? Author spotlights species to study sustainability issue

If I feel like making haddock for dinner, I can stop at the grocery store or fish market on my way home from work and pick up a fillet. It’s a simple but also modern idea: The industrialization of agriculture allows us to take for granted that we can buy whatever food we want, whenever we want, as long as we have enough money to do so.

But how do you reconcile our expectations for fully stocked supermarket shelves with a wild resource like fish?

One answer is that you don’t, that you simply replace unpredictable wild stocks with farmed product. In the last 30 years, farmed seafood has nearly overtaken wild fish in consumption in the United States, United Kingdom and Canada, and it is a trend that continues. The National Fisheries Institute reported that farmed tilapia bumped Alaska pollock down a notch to become America’s fourth favorite fish in 2010.

Is this inevitable, asks Paul Greenberg in “Four Fish”: “Must we eliminate all wildness from the sea and replace it with some kind of human controlled system or can wilderness be understood and managed well enough to keep humanity and the marine world in balance?”

To answer this question, Greenberg examines the histories and current conditions of four species that dominate the modern fish counter — salmon, sea bass, cod and tuna. Greenberg, an avid fisherman and thorough reporter, offers thoughtful ideas about what we need to do to ensure that our grandchildren can taste a fish that has swum in the open sea. You may not agree with all of his conclusions, but I believe his investigation is worth reading. — Melissa Wood

Inside the Industry

NMFS recently released a draft action plan for fish discard and release mortality science, creating a list of actions that they hope can better inform fisheries.

We know that fishermen have to deal with bycatch by discarding or releasing unwanted catch overboard, but there is a data gap regarding how those fish survive.


A new study has identified a set of features common to all ocean ecosystems that provide a visual diagnosis of the health of the underwater environment coastal communities rely on.

Together, the features detail cumulative effects of threats -- such as overfishing, pollution, and invasive species,  allowing responders to act faster to increase ocean resiliency and sustainability.

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