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Four Fish
The Future of the Last Wild Food
Paul Greenberg
read on September 1, 2011

I read this book months ago, and didn't take any notes, which is a shame because it had a whole bunch of really interesting information about fish (obviously) and the way that the fishing industry has changed in just the last thirty years or so. It spent a while talking about the dangers of overfishing, and reasons why it's so hard to police the problem (i.e., international waters). Another big point was the discussion of the trade-off of farmed vs wild fish. Farmed can be a great idea since it sort of domesticates fish and allows us to efficiently grow/catch/serve them - but the interesting bit is that those populations very quickly evolve into their own branch of the species, often much less suited for the wild than their actual wild brethren… and when the farmed fish inevitably escape the hatchery they can end up really gumming up the gene pool with the wild fish. What seems like a sustainable shortcut solution really isn't, and needs to be controlled much more carefully than it currently is.

Also, I liked the idea the book brought up that fish are extremely efficient. I don't have the figures, but Greenberg looks at each species and breaks down how many calories we need to feed fish in order to get one calorie of fish meat. With most animals the number is some tiny fraction - but with some fish that number very nearly approaches one. I.e., fish are super important and we probably shouldn't screw this up.

Author Bio:

Paul Greenberg is an American author and essayist. Since 2005 Greenberg has written regularly for the New York Times in the Magazine, Book Review and Opinion sections, focusing on fish, aquaculture and the future of the ocean. His book, Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food, was published in 2010 by Penguin Press on July 15, and has entered the New York Times Best Selling Hard Cover List as of August 13. In addition to its commercial success the book received wide critical acclaim, most notably on the cover of the New York Times Book Review by the Times' restaurant critic Sam Sifton "a necessary book," Sifton wrote, "for anyone truly interested in what we take from the sea to eat, and how". Four Fish also formed the basis of a 2011 cover story of Time magazine. "Fish are the last wild food" wrote the Time editors, echoing Four Fish's subtitle, "but our oceans are being picked clean. Can farming fish take the place of catching them?"