Four Fish, by Paul Greenburg

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I really liked this book a lot — it’s a look at our relationship with the 4 main “food fish” that we eat in huge quantities: salmon, sea bass, cod, and tuna. It starts by talking about salmon farming, something that humans have been doing for something more than 500 years — I had no idea. Goes into pretty good detail about the relative merits of wild salmon fishing versus farmed salmon harvesting — although it doesn’t really make it clear at all what to buy at Whole Foods.

He makes it clear that sea bass — or, more generally, perciforms — despite their relative ubiquity, are a pretty strange choice in fish to domesticate — very tricky. (Also, there are a lot of different fish that we call sea bass, but they’re all pretty different.)

Cod, of course, was well chronicled by Mark Kurlansky in his outstanding book Cod, about 10 years ago — and Greenburg does a good job of taking that work as a baseline and extending it in the context of sustainable oceans now, and what’s happened in the Grand Banks over the past decade or so.

And it’s a bit of an ode to tuna, especially the dwindling bluefin tuna, which he asserts is one of the most incredible fish species and that we need to stop fishing now.

Anyway, great book, and with real suggestions for sustainability at the end. (In short, pick fish more suitable for farming: tra, tilapia, and the Kona kampachi.)

My mom reminded me the other day that I have sometimes, um, esoteric tastes in what I read — and I guess that’s true. But I really liked this book, and think it’s relatively rare for books to change the way you think about your relationship with the world. Very recommended.

And with sentences like this:

The hoki is a gadiform descended from a fish that ended up in the Southern Hemisphere after the great gadiform radiation tens of millions of years ago.”

How can you not want to read more? 🙂

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