I’ve just finished reading Four Fish – A journey from the ocean to your plate by Paul Greenberg and would recommend it to anyone interested in the future of our fisheries. It’s amusing, brilliantly written and clearly gets the point across without lecturing the reader or getting you depressed. It’s not an academic analysis of declining fish stocks, nor an over-emotional propoganda for the end of fishing; Paul is himself a fisherman and he gives a balanced account of the current global over fishing and the possible solutions.
It covers the four main fish found on the world’s menus: salmon, tuna, bass and cod. Greenberg looks at their history as a food source, as well as their current viability, both as wild stock and as farmed fish.
Over fishing is well documented, but what Paul Greenberg offers is a solution for the future of fish in a practical way. There are now clear examples of certain fisheries being brought back to life using well-managed sustainable methods. If we can replicate these successes then there is hope, but first of all certain goals need to be met. He mentions ‘ocean zoning’ and ‘ecosystem management’: Protecting the entire system from rivers through to the sea and establishing an environmental balance.
There is a huge and increasing demand for fish that can never be met through wild stocks and so fish farming has to be seen as part of the solution. Some fish are perfect for farming, but it is not the species we are familiar with. Salmon, bass, cod and tuna are all unsuitable to farming and should be left to their own devices in the wild. Fish such as tilapia can be farmed efficiently, converting feed into fillet at a conversion of less than 2:1. For a blue fin tuna, that figure is 20:1.
We need to increase fish farming when the species can be farmed efficiently and put an end to the huge factory boats that are destroying whole fisheries. Wild fish can be caught via a well regulated fishery of small boats.
This really is a worthwhile read – it would be interesting to come back to it ten years from now. Hopefully the UK can get its waters in order and we can develop a sustainable fishery from top to bottom. It will require government action – but there are small signs of encouragement.