American Catch: The Fight for Our Local Seafood

Overview

Bestselling author of Four Fish Paul Greenberg looks to New York oysters, gulf shrimp, and Alaskan salmon to tell the surprising story of why Americans no longer eat from local waters

In 2005, the United States imported twelve billion dollars’ worth of seafood, nearly double what we had imported ten years earlier. During that same period, our seafood exports rose by a third. In American Catch, our foremost fish expert Paul Greenberg looks to New York oysters, gulf shrimp, and ...

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Overview

Bestselling author of Four Fish Paul Greenberg looks to New York oysters, gulf shrimp, and Alaskan salmon to tell the surprising story of why Americans no longer eat from local waters

In 2005, the United States imported twelve billion dollars’ worth of seafood, nearly double what we had imported ten years earlier. During that same period, our seafood exports rose by a third. In American Catch, our foremost fish expert Paul Greenberg looks to 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.

As recently as 1928 the average New Yorker ate six hundred local oysters a year. Today, the only edible oysters lie outside city limits. Looking at 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. To understand the complications of our current moment, 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 salmon run left in the world. A pristine, productive fishery, Bristol Bay is now at great risk: The proposed Pebble Mine project directly endangers the sockeye salmon’s habitat. In his search to discover why this precious renewable resource isn’t better protected, Greenberg discovers a shocking truth: 70 percent of all Alaskan salmon is sent out of the country, much of it to Asia. Sockeye salmon is arguably the most nutritionally dense animal protein on the planet, yet Americans are shipping it abroad.

Despite the challenges, hope abounds. In New York, Greenberg connects with an oyster restoration project with a vision for how the bivalves might save the city from rising tides; in the gulf, shrimpers band together to offer local catch direct to consumers. And in Bristol Bay, fishermen, environmentalists, and local Alaskans gather to roadblock Pebble Mine. In American Catch Paul Greenberg proposes there is a way to break the current destructive patterns of consumption and return the American catch back to American consumers.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

More than ninety percent of the seafood we Americans eat is imported. Most of our homegrown fish sources have been environmentally desecrated and much of the best seafood that we do harvest is shipped overseas. Paul Greenberg's American Catch takes readers on an informative, if often disturbing nationwide tour of our fish, oyster, and shrimp industries; what threatens them all and what can save them. Editor's recommendation.

Publishers Weekly
06/09/2014
In this sobering and crisply told tale of excess and loss, American seafood imports doubled and our seafood exports quadrupled between 1985 and 2005, according to Greenberg (Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food). Focusing on three local American seafoods—Eastern oysters, Gulf shrimp, and Alaska salmon—he explores the history of the seafood, its demise in certain waters, and the impact of the loss of a species on the surrounding ecology. Until the end of the 19th century, for example, oyster banks dotted the East Coast, providing not only sustenance and a source of income for coastal towns but also keeping local waters clear, since oysters filter mud and silt from the water that washes over them. Greenberg focuses on the decline of oysters in the bays around N.Y.C., where pollution destroyed entire populations. In the company of aquatic biologists attempting to rebuild oyster banks in New York waters, Greenberg discovers the difficulties of recreating an extinct seafood population. Greenberg points out the disastrous ecological consequences of farming seafood: given that 90% of the shrimp American eat is imported, and two-thirds of the salmon farmed, our marshes, estuaries, and wetlands serve no purpose. In the end, he suggests that the seafood sector must break its ties to other extractive industries—the oil and gas industry, commercial agriculture—in order to survive and flourish and do good business with the planet. (July)
Kirkus Reviews
2014-05-18
Blue Ocean Institute fellow Greenberg (Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food, 2010, etc.) offers an optimistic perspective on the connection between preserving our salt marshes and restoring America's offshore seafood production.The author presents three illustrative case studies: the effort to bring oysters back to our Eastern shores, the threat to Alaska's wild salmon industry from mining interests, and the effect of globalization on Gulf Coast shrimp. The importance of maintaining and extending our salt marshes is an accepted tenet of environmentalists, but the importance of seafood in maritime ecology is frequently overlooked—e.g., reducing pollution, creating buffers against flooding and more. Greenberg explains why fishing is not merely an extractive enterprise; it plays a critical role in maintaining the health of waterways and marshes, as well as furthering the establishment of “economically viable waterfront communities, and good, healthful food.” The author suggests that one reason Americans do not prioritize protecting fish resources, such as Alaskan wild salmon, is that seafood no longer is a major component of the national diet, despite its known health value. Enlisting the consumer as an advocate for expanding the fishing industry on our home turf can make the difference between relative apathy and passionate advocacy. Greenberg describes the ongoing efforts of young volunteers to rejuvenate East Coast oyster production in New York and New Jersey. Not only is this an effort to recapture nature's bounty at some future date; it is also an immediate resource for cleaning the polluted waters. He explains how oyster reproduction depends on the buildup of reefs made of discarded shells, and he chronicles current efforts to replicate these artificially. He also shows how the shrimp industry in Louisiana operates in a global market and offers a historical perspective on the early role of Chinese immigrants in developing an Asian market for dried shrimp.A fascinating discussion of a multifaceted issue and a passionate call to action.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781480599109
  • Publisher: Brilliance Audio
  • Publication date: 6/9/2015
  • Format: CD
  • Edition description: Unabridged
  • Product dimensions: 6.50 (w) x 5.50 (h) x 0.62 (d)

Meet the Author

Paul Greenberg is the author of the James Beard Award–winning bestseller 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 widely on ocean issues at institutions ranging from Google to Yale to the U.S. Senate. He is currently a Pew fellow in Marine Conservation and a fellow with the Blue Ocean Institute.
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