Summer Reading B2G1 Free

Special Offers see all

Enter to WIN a $100 Credit

Subscribe to
for a chance to win.
Privacy Policy

Visit our stores

    Recently Viewed clear list

    Q&A | July 20, 2015

    Jesse Ball: IMG Powell’s Q&A: Jesse Ball

    Describe your latest book. I woke up one day from a sort of daydream with an idea for a book's structure, and for the thread of that book, one... Continue »
    1. $16.80 Sale Hardcover add to wish list

      A Cure for Suicide

      Jesse Ball 9781101870129

Qualifying orders ship free.
List price: $25.95
Used Hardcover
Ships in 1 to 3 days
Add to Wishlist
Qty Store Section
2 Beaverton Nature Studies- Fish

Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food


Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food Cover

ISBN13: 9781594202568
ISBN10: 1594202567
Condition: Standard
Dustjacket: Standard
All Product Details

Only 2 left in stock at $11.95!



Author's Note


By Paul Greenberg

When the New York Times reported this past June that the US Food and Drug Administration was "seriously considering" approving a genetically modified Atlantic salmon for American consumption, the cries from environmentalists and food reformers were, predictably, almost audible on the streets. The salmon's creator, AquaBounty of Waltham, MA claims that the fish which uses a "genetic on-switch" from the ocean pout (a very different fish) will be sterile and grown in out-of-ocean containment structures. Nevertheless the worry of genetic contamination of wild fish, the health risks a modified salmon could pose to consumers, and just the overall ick-factor the public seems to have about GMO food were all on display across the foodie and environmental blogosphere a few days after the Times article ran.

But, curiously, perhaps the loudest groan that I heard in response to the AquaBounty successes came from salmon farmers. "What I have been noticing over the years," Thierry Chopin, an aquaculture researcher based in New Brunswick, Canada wrote me, "is that the aquaculture industry is not jumping to embrace what AquaBounty has been proposing." For years salmon farmers have been waging a public relations war, trying to gain legitimacy as an industry that could be both profitable and produce more food for a hungry world. When a paper published in the journal Nature in 2000 revealed that it took more than three pounds of wild forage fish to grow a single pound of farmed salmon, the salmon industry responded through selective breeding and more efficient feeding practices to lower their wild fish use to the point where some farms claim to have achieved a fish in-fish out ratio of about 1 pound of wild fish for 1 pound of farmed salmon. When diseases like infectious Salmon Anemia and parasites like sea lice began to run rampant on salmon farms around the world, some regions, like the Bay of Fundy in Canada, instituted better fallowing and crop rotation practices and appear to have had some success in breaking disease and parasite cycles. In spite of these improvements, a single mention of transgenic salmon in a major media outlet is enough to spoil whatever gains the industry has made in public perception. Indeed, many lay-people I talk to have the impression that transgenic salmon are a regular part of the farmed salmon market, this despite the fact that there are still no transgenic salmon sold in the United States or anywhere else that I've encountered.

Don't get me wrong. I sincerely do not believe that the salmon industry has solved its environmental problems. But I do think that it suffers an unfair association with the AquaBounty project and that genetic modification distracts from what investment and research really needs to address. The two biggest problems with farming salmon are:

1) Salmon are grown in sea cages, often anchored amidst wild salmon migration routes. This can cause the fouling of waters with wastes and the transmission of diseases and parasites to already seriously threatened and endangered stocks of wild salmon. Selectively bred fish regularly escape and some suggest they may interfere with the life cycles of wild fish.

2) Farmed salmon consume a huge amount of wild forage fish. Even though feed efficiency on a per-fish basis has improved dramatically, salmon farming overall has grown so much that the per-fish efficiency has been all but erased by a much larger overall presence of salmon farming in the world. Atlantic salmon, once limited to the northern latitudes of the northern hemisphere, are now farmed on every single continent save Antarctica. It's possible farmed salmon escapees may have even reached that most southerly redoubt. Salmon farms exist as far south as Patagonia and Tasmania.

So what is the way forward and how do we deal with this transgenic issue? If I were tsar of all salmon-kind and could redirect investment money at will, I might take all of those dollars that go into transgenic research and put that money into really addressing the problems of salmon farming. I might look to developing efficient, above ground, re-circulating aquaculture systems. These facilities allow fish to be grown in temperature-controlled environments without any interaction with the wild. Using these systems, disease transfer and genetic pollution are greatly reduced, if not eliminated altogether. Yonathan Zohar a researcher at the University of Maryland's Center of Marine Biotechnology has created a test facility right in downtown Baltimore that efficiently grows an array of species and even manages to recycle the methane gas that result from fish wastes. Though these systems are energy intensive, the ability to build them in proximity to markets lessens food miles and somewhat mitigates the energy footprint. I might also try to expand on the work of Thierry Chopin who is piloting a program of Integrated Multi-Trophic Aquaculture or IMTA where mussels, edible seaweeds, and sea cucumbers are grown in conjunction with salmon in a complex polyculture. Rather than just trying to make an artificially efficient modified salmon, Chopin is trying to make a more efficient system where multiple crops come from a single feed source and neutralize a lot of salmon farms wastes in the process. Another place I might put my salmon dollars would be the development of alternative feeds that are synthesized from soy and algae and might eventually obviate the need for using wild forage fish in salmon feed.

Finally, I might consider investing in a different fish altogether. Some critics of the aquaculture industry believe we should do away with the farming of salmonids altogether. But to my eye, there is a very entrenched market for salmon flesh now and we might be better served finding a different salmon-like fish that has a smaller footprint. The most hopeful alternative I've come across is the arctic char. The arctic char has pretty good feed conversion ratios and, most interestingly of all, because it frequently finds itself crammed into close quarters when its natural arctic lakes freeze, it has high disease resistance and takes extremely well to high stocking densities in aquaculture. Most arctic char today are grown in re-circulating, above ground tanks in Iceland and Canada. Of course some people will never embrace this solution. There is a camp that feels that farmed fish are uniformly bad for the world and lousy on the plate. I have to confess that I don't share this opinion. To my palate, farmed arctic char are pretty tasty.

What Our Readers Are Saying

Add a comment for a chance to win!
Average customer rating based on 2 comments:

lukas, February 12, 2011 (view all comments by lukas)
Basically, "The Omnivore's Dilemma," but with fish. It's not exactly that, but it's clearly benefiting from the momentum of the new food consciousness. Greenberg picks four key fish (salmon, tuna, bass, cod) and traces their history, our consumption of them and what might happen if we don't curb fishing. It's not as thoughtful, nuanced and provocative as Michael Pollan, but if you eat fish on a regular basis, you should probably read this. Makes a good double feature with that "Cod" book.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
J Green, January 3, 2011 (view all comments by J Green)
Mankind has often looked upon the ocean as a bountiful place capable of providing a near-endless supply of food. We even sort of romanticize those who brave the elements, from Moby Dick and yesterday's whalers to today's "Deadliest Catch." And for reasons of abundance or convenience or perhaps just taste, we've settled upon four main fish which serve as our principal "seafood": salmon, bass, cod, and tuna. But, as fishing has become increasingly commercial and efficient, we're in danger of destroying the wild populations of these fish and the ecosystems they depend upon and that are dependent upon them.

Paul Greenburg has written an excellent and surprisingly readable book about our relationship with the sea and its bounty. He does this not from a solely environmentalist perspective, but also as a fisherman and one who enjoys eating fish. He discusses the advantages of wild vs. farmed fish - the destructive practices of each which imperil future stocks. With farming, in particular, the four are very poor candidates for captive rearing (although the lessons learned so far have been essential and can be applied elsewhere). He also explores potential replacements against a checklist of qualities that should ensure greater success (the same qualities that have been proven in terrestrial farming).

I was *very* surprised at how much I enjoyed this book. I've never been a huge eater of seafood, although I've recently begun ordering it more often when we eat out. But I most appreciated the scientific aspect of the book that seeks to find the best possible balance, moving beyond the simple red or green seafood cards to maximizing a sustainable harvest while protecting resources. He acknowledges there are no easy answers, but leans a little too heavily on regulation as if illegal poaching wouldn't increase with such measures. But overall, an important read for all those who are concerned about the future of the oceans and the last wild food.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
View all 2 comments

Product Details

Greenberg, Paul
Penguin Press
Nestor, James
Life Sciences - Ecology
Animals - Fish
Fisheries & Aquaculture
Fishery management
Oceans & Seas
Edition Description:
Paperback / softback
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
from 12
8-page 4/c insert
9 x 6 in 1 lb
Age Level:

Other books you might like

  1. Born Round: The Secret History of a...
    Used Hardcover $8.50
  2. The Eastern Stars: How Baseball... Used Hardcover $11.50
  3. The Last Fish Tale: The Fate of the...
    Used Hardcover $9.50
  4. Animals in Translation: Using the... Used Hardcover $7.50
  5. Pacific rising :the emergence of a... Used Hardcover $8.95
  6. The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet
    Used Hardcover $8.50

Related Subjects

History and Social Science » Sociology » Agriculture and Food
Science and Mathematics » Agriculture » Aquaculture
Science and Mathematics » Environmental Studies » Environment
Science and Mathematics » Nature Studies » Fish
Science and Mathematics » Oceanography » Fish
Science and Mathematics » Oceanography » Fisheries
Science and Mathematics » Oceanography » General

Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food Used Hardcover
0 stars - 0 reviews
$11.95 In Stock
Product details 304 pages Penguin Press - English 9781594202568 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

In the vein of The Omnivore's Dilemma, Four Fish looks at the current state of tuna, bass, salmon, and cod. Fished, farmed, modified, and championed, these four make up the bulk of our fish consumption. New York Times magazine writer Greenberg explores the past, present, and future of global aquaculture.

"Review" by , "Hugely informative, sincere and infectiously curious and enthusiastic."
"Synopsis" by , The history of four fish — bass, cod, salmon, and tuna — exposes a critical moment in our relationship with the truly last wild food we consume.
"Synopsis" by , Our species is more profoundly connected to the sea than we ever realized, as an intrepid cadre of scientists, athletes, and explorers is now discovering. Deep follows these adventurers into the ocean to report on the latest findings about its wondrous biology and#8212; and unimagined human abilities.
"Synopsis" by ,
The deep sea remains Earthand#8217;s final frontier. And as James Nestor reveals, adventurous scientistsand#8217; current quests to solve the mysteries of the ocean are transforming not only our knowledge of the planet and its creatures, but also our understanding of the human body and mind. Over the course of the book, Nestor journeys from the oceanand#8217;s surface and#8212; where the extreme sport of freediving pushes the boundaries of human physical endurance and#8212; to its greatest, most otherworldly depth, 35,000 feet below sea level at the bottom of the Marianas Trench. Along the way he finds and#8220;telepathicand#8221; corals that synchronize their blooming even though theyand#8217;re hundreds of miles apart, octopus species that thrive in 300-degree water, sharks that swim in unerringly straight lines through pitch blackness, and, most illuminating of all, the human pioneers whose discoveries are expanding our definition of what is possible in the natural world, and in ourselves.
"Synopsis" by ,
"A necessary book for anyone truly interested in what we take from the sea to eat, and how, and why." -Sam Sifton, The New York Times Book Review.

Writer and life-long fisherman Paul Greenberg takes us on a journey, examining the four fish that dominate our menus: salmon, sea bass, cod, and tuna. Investigating the forces that get fish to our dinner tables, Greenberg reveals our damaged relationship with the ocean and its inhabitants. Just three decades ago, nearly everything we ate from the sea was wild. Today, rampant overfishing and an unprecedented biotech revolution have brought us to a point where wild and farmed fish occupy equal parts of a complex marketplace. Four Fish offers a way for us to move toward a future in which healthy and sustainable seafood is the rule rather than the exception.

  • back to top


Powell's City of Books is an independent bookstore in Portland, Oregon, that fills a whole city block with more than a million new, used, and out of print books. Shop those shelves — plus literally millions more books, DVDs, and gifts — here at