World Without Fish

World Without Fish

5.0 1
by Mark Kurlansky, Frank Stockton

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Mark Kurlansky, beloved award-winning and bestselling author, offers a riveting, uniquely illustrated, narrative nonfiction account for kids about what’s happening to fish, the oceans, and our environment, and what kids can do about it.

World Without Fish has been praised as “urgent” (Publishers Weekly) and “a


Mark Kurlansky, beloved award-winning and bestselling author, offers a riveting, uniquely illustrated, narrative nonfiction account for kids about what’s happening to fish, the oceans, and our environment, and what kids can do about it.

World Without Fish has been praised as “urgent” (Publishers Weekly) and “a wonderfully fast-paced and engaging primer on the key questions surrounding fish and the sea” (Paul Greenberg, author of Four Fish). It has also been included in the New York State Expeditionary Learning English Language Arts Curriculum.

Written by a master storyteller, World Without Fish connects all the dots—biology, economics, evolution, politics, climate, history, culture, food, and nutrition—in a way that kids can really understand. It describes how the fish we most commonly eat, including tuna, salmon, cod, and swordfish, could disappear within 50 years, and the domino effect it would have—oceans teeming with jellyfish and turning pinkish orange from algal blooms; seabirds disappearing, then reptiles, then mammals. It describes the back-and-forth dynamic of fishermen and scientists. It covers the effects of industrialized fishing, and how bottom-dragging nets are turning the ocean floor into a desert.

The answer? Support sustainable fishing. World Without Fish tells kids exactly what they can do: Find out where those fish sticks come from. Tell your parents what’s good to buy, and what’s not. Ask the waiter if the fish on the menu is line-caught And follow simple rules: Use less plastic, and never eat endangered fish like bluefin tuna.

Interwoven with the book is a graphic novel. Each beautifully illustrated chapter opener links to form a larger fictional story that complements the text. Hand in hand, they create a Silent Spring for a new generation.


Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Kurlansky (The Cod's Tale) offers an urgent account of the problems that threaten the world's oceans and could result in the commercial extinction of key species of fish in the next 50 years. It's an alarming statement, underscored by the book's design: on most pages, key sentences (and sometimes not-so-key ones) appear in an enormous, all-caps font, the typographical equivalent of a fire alarm ("THIS IS CALLED A SUSTAINABLE FISHERY. THIS IS THE REAL ANSWER TO OVERFISHING"). Kurlansky opens by outlining the problem—overfishing is resulting in "a massive shifting in the natural order of the planet"—before discussing the cultural, political, and industrial factors that have led to current conditions. Sidebars profile various fish as well as key historical moments, and the narrative is further broken up by comic book panels that tell the earnest story of Kram, a fictional scientist, and his daughter, Ailat, who witness the very destruction Kurlansky describes, as species vanish and the oceans turn slimy and orange with the resurgence of algae and krill. It's a dire vision, and Kurlansky's few suggestions (support sustainable fishing, become an activist) may not be much comfort. Ages 10–up. (Apr.)
From the Publisher
“In his histories of cod and oysters, Mark Kurlansky described how those species once thrived in the wild, and how they were depleted. [World Without Fish] casts an even wider net and, with the help of superb illustrations and an interwoven graphic novel by Frank Stockton, creates a compelling narrative for young people.”
The New York Times

 "A wonderfully fast-paced and engaging primer on the key questions surrounding fish and the sea. Great for a classroom or as a beach read"
Paul Greenberg, author of Four Fish

"Mark Kurlanksy exposes one of the most alarming but least-known catastrophes of our time: The depletion of our oceans. While raising the alarm, Mark has also given us the keys to solving the crisis, specific things that each of us can do to help restore our ocean planet."
Michael Sutton, Vice President, Monterey Bay Aquarium
Children's Literature - Michael Jung PhD
Billed as a "Silent Spring for the next generation," World Without Fish provides a straightforward primer about the nature of evolution, the direct role humans have in affecting evolution, and the way our overfishing, polluting, and global warming practices are impacting the oceans, the weather, and ultimately humanity's continued existence. Readers will learn how as the planet's temperature, food sources, and weather patterns changes, certain species (such as the jellyfish) will begin to flourish even as other animals (like the fish that feed on jellyfish) die out. Yet while these evolutionary processes normally take thousands or even millions of years to occur, Kurlansky reveals how human overfishing is radically speeding up this process by depleting the oceans of their fish, which in turn kills off insects, birds, reptiles, and mammals as they lose their food sources. Other chapters examine overfishing in more detail, by exploring how new inventions, such as beam trawlers (that haul huge nets for trapping more fish) and gas and steam engines allow fishermen to expand their fishing grounds and catch fish too quickly for the ocean to replenish the populations. In between the chapters, Kurlansky and Stockton offer a multi-part comic strip that follows a father and daughter as they gradually see their beloved ocean become depleted of the usual sea life, resulting in massive and often unpleasant changes to the sea and land. And while many of the facts the authors present forecast a bleak potential future, Kurlansky and Stockton also offer hope by encouraging young readers to help save fish populations by buying only fish caught in sustainable fisheries, not eating endangered fish, or even organizing picket lines around stores or restaurants that sell endangered fish species. While aimed at middle readers and young adults, the book is an excellent source of information for any teacher, parent, librarian, or adult interested in learning more about the role oceans and sea life play in the survival of multiple species, and how human activities threaten this survival. A good book that should be introduced to children at an early age. Reviewer: Michael Jung, PhD
Kirkus Reviews

The author ofCod (1997) successfully provides readers with a frightening look at the looming destruction of the oceans. Brief sections in graphic-novel format follow a young girl, Ailat, and her father over a couple of decades as the condition of the ocean grows increasingly dire, eventually an orange, slimy mess mostly occupied by jellyfish and leatherback turtles. At the end, Ailat's young daughter doesn't even know what the word fish means. This is juxtaposed against nonfiction chapters with topics including types of fishing equipment and the damage each causes, a history of the destruction of the cod and its consequences, the international politics of the fishing industry and the effects of pollution and global warming. The final chapter lists of some actions readers could take to attempt to reverse the damage: not eating certain types of fish, joining environmental groups, writing to government officials, picketing seafood stores that sell endangered fish, etc. Whenever an important point is to be made, font size increases dramatically, sometimes so that a single sentence fills a page—attention-getting but distractingly so. While it abounds with information, sadly, no sources are cited, undermining reliability. Additionally, there are no index and no recommended bibliography for further research, diminishing this effort's value as a resource. Depressing and scary yet grimly entertaining. (Nonfiction/graphic-novel hybrid. 10 & up)

Pamela Paul
Smartly packaged for budding environmentalists and nascent vegans, World Without Fish combines zoology, oceanography, politics, food and global warming into a readable narrative.
—The New York Times
The New York Times
“In his histories of cod and oysters, Mark Kurlansky described how those species once thrived in the wild, and how they were depleted. [World Without Fish] casts an even wider net and, with the help of superb illustrations and an interwoven graphic novel by Frank Stockton, creates a compelling narrative for young people.”
The New York Times

Product Details

Workman Publishing Company, Inc.
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
7.20(w) x 9.20(h) x 0.90(d)
1230L (what's this?)
Age Range:
9 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

Being A Brief Outline Of The Problem
A large stock of individuals of the same species, relative to the number of its enemies, is absolutely necessary for its preservation. —Charles Darwin, On the Origin of Species
Most stories about the destruction of the planet involve a villain with an evil plot. But this is the story of how the earth could be destroyed by well-meaning people who fail to solve a problem simply because their calculations are wrong. Most of the fish we commonly eat, most of the fish we know, could be gone in the next fifty years.
This includes salmon, tuna, cod, swordfish, and anchovies. If this happens, many other fish that depend on these fish will also be in trouble. So will seabirds that eat fish, such as seagulls and cormorants. So will mammals that eat fish, such as whales, porpoises, and seals. And insects that depend on seabirds, such as beetles and lizards. And mammals that depend on beetles and lizards. Slowly—or maybe not so slowly—in less time than the several billion years it took to create it—life on planet Earth could completely unravel.
People who are in school today are lucky to have been born at a special moment in history. The Industrial Revolution, beginning in the mid-eighteenth century and continuing for the next 120 years shifted production from handcrafts to machine-made factory goods and in so doing completely changed the relationship of people to nature, the relationship of people to each other, politics, art, and architecture—the look and thought of the world. In the next fifty years, much of your working life, there will be as much change in less than half the time. The future of the world, perhaps even the survival of the planet, will depend on how well these changes are handled. And so you have more opportunities and more responsibilities than any other generation in history.
One of the great thinkers of the Industrial Revolution was an Englishman named Charles Darwin. In 1859, he had published one of the most important books ever written: On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life, more commonly known by its shortened title: On the Origin of Species.
In his book, Darwin explained the order of nature as a system in which all the many various plant and animal species struggle for survival. He did not see nature as particularly nice or kind, but as a cruel system in which species attempted to kill and dominate other species in order to secure the survival of their own kind. He wrote, “We do not see, or we forget, that the birds which are idly singing round us, mostly live on insects or seeds, and are thus constantly destroying life.”
Plants and animals are organized into groups with seven major levels or categories: kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus (plural: genera), species.
A codfish and a human belong to the same kingdom, which is animals. They also belong to the same phylum, which is vertebrates (animals with spines). But after that, they break off into completely different classes— cod are fish and humans are mammals. More specifically, humans are vertebrates of the class known as mammals in the order known as primates, which we share with monkeys and lemurs. We belong to the family Hominidae, which we share with apes and chimpanzees. Within that family, we are of the genus Homo, which are Hominidae that walk standing up on two feet. (Several other Homo genera have all died off and we are the only surviving species of this family: Homo sapiens.) Cod, on the other hand, are fish—specifically fish with jaws—that belong to a family called Gadidae. This fish family is fairly evolved, has elaborate fins, and lives in the bottom part of the ocean. They hunt voraciously the species living directly over and beneath them, and have white flesh greatly favored by Homo sapiens.
Darwin wrote of how all species struggle for the survival of their own group. So it is not surprising that we humans have the greatest affection for organisms that are biologically close to us. Killing our own species is the worst thing we can do. Killing close relatives to our species, like monkeys, though it occurs, is revolting to most of us. We tend to care more about our own class—mammals, such as whales and seals and polar bears—than we do about fish. Is that because they are in a different class? Is that why people tend to have less sympathy for animals that are not in our phylum, like insects? Ultimately, a vegetarian is a human who rejects killing living things from his own kingdom—animals—but accepts killing from the other kingdom—plants.


Meet the Author

Mark Kurlansky is a former commercial fisherman and New York Times bestselling author of Cod, Salt, The Big Oyster, and other books. He’s won numerous awards, including the James A. Beard Award, ALA Notable Book Award, and New York Public Library Best Books of the Year Award. He lives with his wife and daughter in New York City and Gloucester, Massachusetts. His website is

Frank Stockton is an artist and illustrator whose work has appeared in Esquire, The New Yorker, The New York Times, and Rolling Stone. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Brief Biography

New York, NY
Date of Birth:
December 7, 1948
Place of Birth:
Hartford, CT
Butler University, B.A. in Theater, 1970

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World Without Fish 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
GAZJI More than 1 year ago
All children as well as adults should read this excellent book. We are rapidly depleting the fish in our oceans, and we must do something about it NOW! The first step is to find out just how this is happening, and this book explains just what is going on. The format is appealing to children, but informative for adults. A must read for everyone.