Synopses & Reviews
Alaska pollock is everywhere. If youandrsquo;re eating fish but you donandrsquo;t know what kind it is, itandrsquo;s almost certainly pollock. Prized for its generic fish taste, pollock masquerades as crab meat in california rolls and seafood salads, and it feeds millions as fish sticks in school cafeterias and Filet-O-Fish sandwiches at McDonaldandrsquo;s. That ubiquity has made pollock the most lucrative fish harvest in Americaandmdash;the fishery in the United States alone has an annual value of over one billion dollars. But even as the money rolls in, pollock is in trouble: in the last few years, the pollock population has declined by more than half, and some scientists are predicting the fisheryandrsquo;s eventual collapse.and#160;In Billion-Dollar Fish
, Kevin M. Bailey combines his years of firsthand pollock research with a remarkable talent for storytelling to offer the first natural history of Alaska pollock. Crucial to understanding the pollock fishery, he shows, is recognizing what aspects of its natural history make pollock so very desirable to fish, while at the same time making it resilient, yet highly vulnerable to overfishing. Bailey delves into the science, politics, and economics surrounding Alaska pollock in the Bering Sea, detailing the development of the fishery, the various political machinations that have led to its current management, and, perhaps most important, its impending demise. He approaches his subject from multiple angles, bringing in the perspectives of fishermen, politicians, environmentalists, and biologists, and drawing on revealing interviews with players who range from Greenpeace activists to fishing industry lawyers.and#160;Seamlessly weaving the biology and ecology of pollock with the history and politics of the fishery, as well as Baileyandrsquo;s own often raucous tales about life at sea, Billion-Dollar Fish
is a book for every person interested in the troubled relationship between fish and humans, from the depths of the sea to the dinner plate.
"The Patagonian toothfish which can live up to 50 years and grow to six feet long is an ugly creature considered too bland for eating by most South Americans. Its high fat content, codlike texture and lack of a fishy taste convinced a Los Angeles fish merchant who found the toothfish in Chile in 1977 that, given an exotic new name, it would do quite well in America. By 1998, 'Chilean sea bass' had become the hottest restaurant craze: '[e]veryone had to have it.' Knecht (The Proving Ground) weaves a parallel plot, which takes place in the South Indian Ocean in 2003, where an Australian patrol boat is hunting down a pirate vessel for stealing toothfish. The chase takes them thousands of nautical miles away to dangerous Antarctic waters and involves South African mercenaries and a dramatic boarding in dangerous seas. Knecht's gripping book flips between the commercial history of the toothfish just the latest of many culinary fads that end up threatening an ocean species and the chase, which illuminates the practically lawless world of commercial fishing, where factory boats with vast dragnets can devastate a population in just a couple of years, a practice the author calls 'the marine equivalent of strip mining.' First serial in the Wall Street Journal. (May)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
is a fish story, a global whodunit, a courtroom drama--and a critically important ecological message all rolled into one."--Tom Brokaw
"It's one of the best ones I've read in years" -Tom Brokaw
Today (NBC) 05/24/06
Review by John Balzar, LA Times
A high-seas adventure with enough action and suspense to have you holding your breath.
A mystery that untangles the roots of a culinary fad fitfully hatched in and marketed from Los Angeles.
A courtroom thriller.
Proof positive that an objective eye is the most persuasive of all.
Mr. G. Bruce Knecht, take a bow.
Not only is "Hooked: Pirates, Poaching and the Perfect Fish" a rollicking read, it is a relief. And a wonder. For wrapped up in these red-blooded storytelling ingredients is the account of another assault on our planet's troubled environment. And let's face it, conservation writing has become one of our dreariest forms: The sky is falling, oh dear ... fill in the blanks.
In these taut pages, Knecht takes livelier aim at the plundering of a limited resource for the sake of growing appetites. He delivers us, straight ahead and close-in, to an epic sea chase across the fearsome Southern Ocean. In one boat, righteous men are out to get what they want, what they regard as theirs, in this seascape of ice and storm. In the other, righteous men are out to stop them in the name of the law.
The story about the demise of the Patagonian toothfish, an ugly, tasteless creature with an unappealing name, is not so heartening. But the fact that Knecht tells it with such crackling drive and with complete confidence in the good judgment of his readers is.
The Patagonian toothfish is large, dark-skinned and cod-like in appearance. The name comes from its undershot mouth and needle-sharp fangs. It dwells in deep, cold waters -- for purposes of Knecht's story, in the waters of the far Southern Hemisphere. Back in the late 1970s, it was a trash fish caught only incidentally by the commercial fleet that worked out of Valparaíso, Chile. It was thought too oily to be desirable.
But a decline in the catch of other more salable fish, along with some desperate determination by global fish brokers who work the Chile-to-Los Angeles circuit, a dash of ingenuity by seafood marketers and a splash of savory miso glaze in a fancy New York restaurant, and voil
andldquo;Few would be accused of romanticising the pollockandmdash;a fish about which only the most devoted marine biologists would use the word andlsquo;charismatic.andrsquo; But the fishermenandrsquo;s tales of its hunting to near extinction are no less fantastical. . . . [Baileyandrsquo;s] book isnandrsquo;t really about the fish at all. It is about a modern-day gold rush, a Wild West of the high seas, and an environmental catastrophe.andrdquo;
andldquo;Bailey blends science with competitive fighting over a substantial pile of money. . . . Never boring or entangled in scientific jargon, Billion-Dollar Fish practically makes pollock fishing out to be The Old Man and the Sea.andrdquo;
andldquo;[T]he first natural history of this ubiquitous fish and an analysis of its population. Although the market for pollockandmdash;worth more than a billion dollars a year in the United States aloneandmdash;seems buoyant compared with some others, Bailey unveils a familiar tale of steep decline.andrdquo;
andldquo;Not that itandrsquo;s a bad thing, but sometimes Billion-Dollar Fish reads like two different books: one a compelling history of the Alaska pollock fishery, the other an excellent primer on the development of fisheries science and resource strategy.andrdquo;
andldquo;Billion-Dollar Fish is an eye-opener for those who have caught themselves pondering the origins of their fried fish sandwiches.andrdquo;
andldquo;[Bailey] writes in a workmanlike style but lightens his account with sporadic portraits of colorful and powerful personalities from the commercial fishing business and its environmentalist antagonists. . . . Billion-Dollar Fish conveys the story of pollock with his skeptical, but affectionate, eye for industrial and environmental claims alike.andrdquo;
and#8220;[Bailey] paints a revealing picture of the colourful personalities at sea and ashore whose economic imperatives raised rates of fishing mortality to levels which, experience was to show, made little long-term biological or even economic sense.and#8221;
and#8220;Bailey is more than a fishery biologist specializing in Alaskan pollock. He is also a talented writer with a graceful style who can casually deliver a wealth of unusual insights and enliven his topic. . . . Bailey is one of those aristocrats among science writers whose work illuminates his field, rewarding general readers as well as professionals. Billion-Dollar Fish is the most authoritative source of information on the USand#8217;s most important fish. Essential.and#8221;
2013 Outstanding Academic Title
and#8220;An engaging, knowledgeable, and entertaining book. . . . Baileyand#8217;s book is an eloquent illustration of the ways in which human institutions, useful at first, can run out of control and do more harm than good.and#8221;
and#8220;Bailey has written a very personal account of the Alaska pollock as an industry, a food source, and a species. His ability to see multiple viewpoints comes from a career on commercial boats, aboard research vessels, with Alaskan communities, and in laboratories. . . . [Bailey] sheds light on the complex ways that industry figures, politicians, and scientists use their different stores of money, power, and knowledge to influence the decisions that affect pollock populations, the fisheries, and their management. The wide scope of Billion-Dollar Fish means that every reader, regardless of his or her background, will learn new things from this book.and#8221;
and#8220;This is a excellent book, . . . full of exciting tales of Norse cowboys, native peoples, fish biologists, and a multitude of fishers battling the mighty North Pacific with plenty of heroics, risk, stupidity, and adventures.and#160; Of the various books Iand#8217;ve reviewed so far, Iand#8217;d have to give it my highest rating of 10 fish.and#8221;
andldquo;With the clear eye of a scientist and firsthand experience out on the high seas, Kevin M. Bailey presents the explosive rise and potential collapse of Americaandrsquo;s most valuable fishery. Surprising and disconcerting, beautifully written and thoroughly researched, Kevin M. Baileyandrsquo;s Billion-Dollar Fish
gets to the bottom of how and why we decimate what could continuously provide substantial sustenance and wealth. With compassion and clarity, he points a way out of this difficult and inexcusable mess. All of us who eat fish will want to know this story.andrdquo;
andldquo;Kevin M. Baileyandrsquo;s Billion-Dollar Fish
captures the high-stakes international battles over the business and biology of Alaska pollock fishing, the most valuable food fishery in the world. Baileyandrsquo;s perspective is as a noncombatant giving scientific advice in a battle for money conducted on the battleground of the sea. Such battles have been and continue to be fought over many other species in all parts of the seaandmdash;for example, codfish, whales, tuna, and squid. This book provides an accessible and entertaining description of decades of hidden financial and scientific battles over a fish that most of us have eaten, unaware of this war.andrdquo;
andldquo;It is remarkable that a book describing one of our nationandrsquo;s largest fisheries has never been writtenandmdash;until now. Lucky for us, Kevin M. Bailey, a well-respected fisheries scientist who knows the fish and fishery better than anyone, tells the story of the billion-dollar fish that few know by nameandmdash;Alaska pollock. Bailey creates an anticipation of andlsquo;what happens nextandrsquo; to the fish, fishermen, environmentalists, politicians, and scientists that makes it hard to put this book down.andrdquo;
andldquo;Kevin M. Bailey turns his well-honed research and writing skills to explain how science, international economics, and national politics turned the lowly walleye pollock into the billion-dollar fish. This story will inform, entertain, and astonish its readers with the complexities of managing the removal of protein from the sea for human consumption.andrdquo;
"Hooked is a fish story, a global whodunit, a courtroom drama, and a critically important ecological message all rolled into one."--Tom Brokaw, author of The Greatest Generation
"A high-seas adventure with enough action and suspense to have you holding your breath. A mystery that untangles the roots of a culinary fad fitfully hatched and marketed from Los Angeles. A courtroom thriller. Proof positive that an objective eye is the most persuasive of all. Mr. G. Bruce Knecht, take a bow."--Los Angeles Times
and#8220;A modern-day tale of an aquatic gold rush. . . . Bailey is an accomplished fisheries scientist, yet he does a remarkable job of providing insightful social and economic viewpoints. His breadth of discussion and the historical context throughout the book is rich and multifaceted with diverse perspectives from environmentalists, businessmen, scientists, and even popular culture. . . . Billion-Dollar Fish should be required reading for students of conservation and the environment, anyone involved in the fishing industry, or general readers with a healthy curiosity of humanityand#8217;s relationship with the natural world.and#8221;
and#8220;Bailey does an excellent job describing the biology and ecology of the species has spent much time researching, but he does well beyond these topics. Bailey describes the fishery from the perspectives of the fishermen, politicians, environmentalists, and scientists. These perspectives are pieced together from books, scientific papers, popular press articles, and Baileyand#8217;s recollections. Additionally, these perspectives are masterfully brought to life through in-depth interviews, and Baileyand#8217;s descriptions give the reader a sense of being present at the interview while experiencing the emotions of interviewer and interviewee. . . . Given its interdisciplinary range, this book would be appropriate for readers interested in the environment, conservation, history, politics, policy, biology, oceans, and fishing. Readers will appreciate the pictures, figures, and sidebars throughout the book. . . . Billion-Dollar Fish could be used as a case study in undergraduate or graduate courses in fisheries and conservation biology or in other disciplines such as economics, management, and social sciences.and#8221;
This modern pirate yarn has all the makings of a great true adventure tale and explores the ways our culinary tastes have all manner of unintended consequences for the world around us. Hooked tells the story of the poaching of the Patagonian toothfish (known to Americans as "Chilean Sea Bass") and is built around the pursuit of the illegal fishing vessel Viarsa by an Australian patrol boat, Southern Supporter, in one of the longest pursuits in maritime history.
Author G. Bruce Knecht chronicles how an obscure fish merchant in California "discovered" and renamed the fish, kicking off a worldwide craze for a fish no one had ever heard of and everyone had to have. With demand exploding, pirates were only too happy to satisfy our taste for Chilean Sea Bass. From the world's most treacherous waters to its most fabulous kitchens, Hooked is at once a thrilling tale and a revelatory popular history that will appeal to a diverse group of readers. Think The Hungry Ocean meets Kitchen Confidential.
About the Author
Kevin M. Bailey is the founding director of the Man and Sea Institute and affiliate professor at the University of Washington. He formerly was a senior scientist at the Alaska Fisheries Science Center and is the author of Billion-Dollar Fish: The Untold Story of Alaska Pollock, also published by the University of Chicago Press.
Table of Contents
PrefacePrologue: Fishing Lessons
1and#160;Introduction: White Gold Fever
2and#160;A Historical Background: From an Inexhaustible Ocean to the Three-Mile Limit
3and#160;Fishing the High Seas: Japan and the Soviet Union Develop the Harvest of Pollock in the Bering Sea
4and#160;Americanization! The Rush for White Gold and the Developing Fishery
5and#160;An Empty Donut Hole: The Great Collapse of a North Pacific Pollock Stock
6and#160;Viking Invasion: Norwayand#8217;s Link to the Pollock Industry
7and#160;A New Fish on the Block: Advancing Knowledge of Pollock Biology
8and#160;A New Ocean: Changing Concepts of Ocean Production and Management of Fisheries
9and#160;Factories of Doom: The Pollock Fishing Industry Clashes with the Environment
10and#160;All in the Family: Olympic Fishing and Domestic Strife in the Industry
11and#160;Bridge over Troubled Water: Tranquility after the American Fisheries Act
12and#160;Alaska Pollockand#8217;s Challenging Future
Appendix A: Terminology
Appendix B: Other Abbreviations