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August 2011    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 26, No. 8   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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The End of the Wild Food

from the August, 2011 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

The End of the Wild FoodAs a diver, my interest in the sea extends far beyond what I experience underwater. I'm deeply concerned about the impact we humans are having on our oceans. Our thirst for carbon-based fuels heats the ocean beyond its tolerance, increases its acidification to the point when seawater slowly dissolves some crustacean and mollusk shells, and melts our icecaps too quickly - a hundred years is a split second in our planet's history - so island nations and our coastal cities may be flooded before the next century.

These disasters seem almost surreal. What isn't surreal is the decline and collapse of the populations of food fish. We're eating our way through prime species, moving down the ladder to catch fish a mile deep, struggling to make tilapia and even jellyfish palatable. To compensate, we're turning ocean coves and fjords into factory farms, polluting them with farmed fish waste just as we have polluted our rivers and lakes with pig farm manure.

That's why I think Four Fish, the Future of the Last Wild Food, by Paul Greenberg, ought to be on every diver's reading list. In his highly readable book, Greenberg details the decline in salmon, cod, tuna and sea bass, the dangers of wholesale fish farming, and just what we might do to ensure a sustainable supply. This is one smart book.

The eminent marine biologist Dr. Sylvia Earle will eat no fish, given her love for the oceans. Yet, many divers feast on grouper caught near or in marine parks on many Caribbean islands. We feed our cats and dogs herring that salmon or seals should be eating, take fish oil pills that deplete the stocks of wild fish, and keep our roses healthy with fish fertilizer. For our personal pleasure, we're wiping out fish eaten by porpoises and whales. Yet we complain loudly -- and rightfully -- when the Japanese bludgeon a dolphin or harpoon a whale.

Four Fish helped me get a much greater sense of the demise of our food fish and the impact of fish farming, but it also showed me a twinkle of hope. This thoughtful and fascinating book will help you understand what's happening to the oceans and what you, in your own way, may do to help. You can order the paperback version at Undercurrent Book Picks

- Ben Davison

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