kottke.org posts about Paul Greenberg

American CatchJun 23 2014

American Catch

Paul Greenberg has an excerpt in the NY Times of his new book, American Catch: The Fight for Our Local Seafood.

As go scallops, so goes the nation. According to the National Marine Fisheries Service, even though the United States controls more ocean than any other country, 86 percent of the seafood we consume is imported.

But it's much fishier than that: While a majority of the seafood Americans eat is foreign, a third of what Americans catch is sold to foreigners.

The seafood industry, it turns out, is a great example of the swaps, delete-and-replace maneuvers and other mechanisms that define so much of the outsourced American economy; you can find similar, seemingly inefficient phenomena in everything from textiles to technology. The difference with seafood, though, is that we're talking about the destruction and outsourcing of the very ecological infrastructure that underpins the health of our coasts.

The article and book focus on three formerly American seafoods that we now mostly import from elsewhere: salmon, oysters, and shrimp.

In 2005, the United States imported five billion pounds of seafood, nearly double what we imported twenty years earlier. Bizarrely, during that same period, our seafood exports quadrupled. American Catch examines New York oysters, Gulf shrimp, and Alaskan salmon to reveal how it came to be that 91 percent of the seafood Americans eat is foreign.

In the 1920s, the average New Yorker ate six hundred local oysters a year. Today, the only edible oysters lie outside city limits. Following the trail of environmental desecration, Greenberg comes to view the New York City oyster as a reminder of what is lost when local waters are not valued as a food source.

Farther south, a different catastrophe threatens another seafood-rich environment. When Greenberg visits the Gulf of Mexico, he arrives expecting to learn of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill's lingering effects on shrimpers, but instead finds that the more immediate threat to business comes from overseas. Asian-farmed shrimp-cheap, abundant, and a perfect vehicle for the frying and sauces Americans love-have flooded the American market.

Finally, Greenberg visits Bristol Bay, Alaska, home to the biggest wild sockeye salmon run left in the world. A pristine, productive fishery, Bristol Bay is now at great risk: The proposed Pebble Mine project could undermine the very spawning grounds that make this great run possible. In his search to discover why this precious renewable resource isn't better protected, Greenberg encounters a shocking truth: the great majority of Alaskan salmon is sent out of the country, much of it to Asia. Sockeye salmon is one of the most nutritionally dense animal proteins on the planet, yet Americans are shipping it abroad.

Is this the end of bluefin tuna?Jun 25 2010

Paul Greenberg explores the current state of fishing for bluefin tuna and it's not looking good.

Tuna then are both a real thing and a metaphor. Literally they are one of the last big public supplies of wild fish left in the world. Metaphorically they are the terminus of an idea: that the ocean is an endless resource where new fish can always be found. In the years to come we can treat tuna as a mile marker to zoom past on our way toward annihilating the wild ocean or as a stop sign that compels us to turn back and radically reconsider.

Greenberg has written extensively on this and related topics in his forthcoming book, Four Fish. Humans have primarily selected four mammals (cows, pigs, sheep and goats) and four birds (chickens, turkeys, ducks and geese) to utilize for food, and are now in the process of choosing four fish (cod, salmon, tuna, and bass).

What's the deal with fish oil?Dec 16 2009

So says the first line of Paul Greenberg's story on fish oil. Which is weird for me because I had been wondering this very thing in my bathroom the other day while staring at my wife's bottle of omega-3 pills.

Nearly every fish a fish eater likes to eat eats menhaden. Bluefin tuna, striped bass, redfish and bluefish are just a few of the diners at the menhaden buffet. All of these fish are high in omega-3 fatty acids but are unable themselves to synthesize them. The omega-3s they have come from menhaden.

Menhaden are also top-notch algae eaters and, no surprise, overfished. (via djacobs)

Update: Bad Science questions whether fish oil is actually beneficial. (thx, phil)

Tags related to Paul Greenberg:
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