The Fight for Our Local Seafood
By PAUL GREENBERG
Author of the New York Times Bestseller, FOUR FISH
The U.S. has access to 94,000 miles of coastline, and nearly half the population lives less than ten miles from the sea. Yet 91 percent of the seafood Americans eat comes from abroad. In contrast, a third of all the fish and shellfish we catch are sold to foreign countries. What is keeping us from eating from our local waters?
In AMERICAN CATCH: The Fight for Our Local Seafood (The Penguin Press, June 26, 2014), Paul Greenberg, examines the logic-defying problem with American seafood consumption. Greenberg, whose previous book Four Fish was a New York Times bestseller, sets out to explore in depth three quintessential American seafoods: the New York oyster, the Gulf shrimp, and the Alaskan sockeye salmon.
Oysters were once so abundant in New York that the average New Yorker ate 600 a year. Yet as the city industrialized, government officials, businesses, and finally even the public ceased to value local waters as a food source—turning them into dumping grounds for waste and destroying wild oyster reefs to make way for commercial real estate. Greenberg comes to view the decline of oysters as the clearest metaphor for Americans’ indifference toward our oceans. There are deep implications to this apathy, as not only our wild seafood, but our fishermen are going extinct. In the Gulf, the greatest threat to the local shrimp industry is the bargain basement-prices of foreign aquaculture, causing shrimpers to go out of business. When fishermen don’t occupy the coast, real estate developers move in, draining wetlands, and doing more irreversible ecological damage.
Americans are not only destroying native fish populations, we are also exporting what’s left. Bristol Bay, Alaska, is the site of the world’s most valuable wild salmon fishery—and salmon is arguably the most nutritionally dense animal protein on earth. But 70 percent of the salmon produced in Bristol Bay are shipped abroad, never landing on American plates. Furthermore, the Bay is at risk. The proposed Pebble Mine project, which would create the world’s largest open-pit gold and copper mine, directly endangers the salmon’s habitat.
We believe that we are what we eat, but Greenberg argues that we do not eat what we truly are. We are an ocean nation, yet we eat a minimal amount of seafood in comparison to meat and poultry. Study after study has touted the benefits of a diet rich in omega-3s from fish, and we have access to a wealth of nutritious, local food options, but we opt out.
Despite the challenges, Greenberg predicts a revolution in America’s relationship with its local seafood. More and more, Americans are realizing the value of eating fish and the need to rebuild infrastructure to support local fishing. Greenberg reports on promising ventures to reintroduce the New York oyster to its natural habitat, Gulf shrimpers banding together to sell local catch directly to consumers, and growing public and federal government support for protecting Bristol Bay. In American Catch, Greenberg finds the basis for our nation’s broken relationship with its oceans, and sets out to understand finally how that breach might be mended.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Paul Greenberg is the author of the New York Times bestseller and James Beard Award-winning Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food and a regular contributor to the New York Times. He has been featured on NPR’s Fresh Air and All Things Considered and has lectured for Google, Harvard, the U.S. Senate, and many other institutions. He is currently a fellow with the Blue Ocean Institute and the writer in residence at New York City’s South Street Seaport Museum.
AMERICAN CATCH: The Fight for Our Local Seafood
By Paul Greenberg
The Penguin Press
Publication Date: July 1, 2014