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American Catch: The Fight for Our Local Seafood

American Catch: The Fight for Our Local Seafood

by Paul Greenberg

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"A fascinating discussion of a multifaceted issue and a passionate call to action" —Kirkus

In American Catch, award-winning author Paul Greenberg takes the same skills that won him acclaim in Four Fish to uncover the tragic unraveling of the nation’s seafood supply—telling the surprising story of why Americans stopped eating


"A fascinating discussion of a multifaceted issue and a passionate call to action" —Kirkus

In American Catch, award-winning author Paul Greenberg takes the same skills that won him acclaim in Four Fish to uncover the tragic unraveling of the nation’s seafood supply—telling the surprising story of why Americans stopped eating from their own waters.

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 under¬mine the very spawning grounds that make this great run possible. In his search to discover why this pre¬cious 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.

Despite the challenges, hope abounds. In New York, Greenberg connects 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. With American Catch, Paul Greenberg proposes a way to break the current destructive patterns of consumption and return American catch back to American eaters.


Editorial Reviews

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.

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Brilliance Audio
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5.37(w) x 7.50(h) x 0.50(d)

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher
The New Yorker
“Greenberg, who laughs easily and resembles Paul Giamatti’s distant cousin, is the author of American Catch, which explores the fishy problem of why Americans have all but stopped eating seafood from their own waters. Here’s the uniquely American catch: ninety-one per cent of the seafood we eat comes from abroad and much of it is farmed, while one-third of what we catch is exported, and much of that is wild... Greenberg’s breezy, engaging style weaves history, politics, environmental policy, and marine biology through its three chapters.”

The Washington Post:
"Americans need to eat more American seafood. It’s a point [Greenberg] makes compellingly clear in his new book, American Catch: The Fight for our Local Seafood...Greenberg had at least one convert: me.”

The Wall Street Journal:
“Paul Greenberg so desires to revive the New York City oyster that he did the unthinkable: He ate a New York City oyster... This is Mr. Greenberg’s ultimate goal—to get us to eat the seafood from our nation’s bounty.”

Jane Brody, New York Times
“There is nothing inherently wrong with farmed seafood, says Paul Greenberg, the author of two excellent books on seafood, Four Fish:, The Future of the Last Wild Food and, just published, American Catch: The Fight for Our Local Seafood. Mr. Greenberg describes several efforts to produce and market farmed seafood in an environmentally sound manner. Governments like ours would be wise to divert some of the subsidies that sustain animal husbandry on land to the underwriting of sound fish-farming practices.”

The Los Angeles Times
“If this makes it sound like American Catch is another of those dry, haranguing issue-driven books that you read mostly out of obligation, you needn’t worry. While Greenberg has a firm grasp of the facts, he also has a storyteller’s knack for framing them in an entertaining way.”

The Guardian (UK)
“A wonderful new book”

Tom Colicchio:
"This is on the top of my summer reading list. A Fast Food Nation for fish.”

Seattle Times
The salmon run may have found its own passionate champion in Greenberg, who has spent years covering the topic. Bristol Bay salmon is featured along with New York oysters and Gulf Coast shrimp in Greenberg’s new book, American Catch: The Fight For Our Local Seafood... Greenberg talks about the peculiar logic that’s caused our local seafood system to unravel, and what’s at stake if we don’t reel it back in.”

The Boston Globe
Greenberg, a longtime commentator on aquaculture and the oceans, again blends reportage, history, and advocacy, organizing one chapter each around three species... Greenberg describes a wondrous moment — in the Bronx, of all places; while in search of reintroduced specimen he stumbles on “a real live, naturally spawned New York City oyster . . . [a] brave sentry from a lost kingdom.” Greenberg is at his best describing such epiphanies — he also writes beautifully about fishing for salmon in Alaska, which offers up similar reveries.”

Kirkus Reviews:
"An optimistic perspective... A fascinating discussion of a multifaceted issue and a passionate call to action."


Sam Sifton, The New York Times Book Review
“[Four Fish] is a necessary book for anyone truly interested in what we take from the sea to eat, and how, and why.”

Richard Eder, Los Angeles Times
“The signal quality of Greenberg’s book is its genial and sometimes despairing struggle with contradiction. Not many who argue for our planet’s endangered species also write the thrill of hunting them. Like the fish he once hooked, he plunges away and is reeled back. Four Fish is a serious and searching study. Written with wit and beauty, it is also play.”

“[An] excellent, wide-ranging exploration of humankind’s relationship with fish.”

The Seattle Times
“Greenberg’s saga, and his voice, are irresistible. A book that easily could have slid into cheap ideology or wonkiness instead revels in the tragicomic absurdity of nature, humans, and, of course, human nature. Yet it never shies away from the ugly, complicated truths of our modern world.”

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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