An eye-opening look at aquaculture that does for seafood what Fast Food Nation did for beef. Dividing his sensibilities between Epicureanism and ethics, Taras Grescoe set out on a nine-month, worldwide search for a delicious--and humane--plate of seafood. What he discovered shocked him. From North American Red Lobsters to fish farms and research centers in China, Bottomfeeder takes readers on an illuminating tour through the $55-billion-dollar-a-year seafood industry. Grescoe examines how out-of-control pollution, unregulated fishing practices, and climate change affect what ends up on our plate. More than a screed against a multibillion-dollar industry, however, this is also a balanced and practical guide to eating, as Grescoe explains to readers which fish are best for our environment, our seas, and our bodies. At once entertaining and illuminating, Bottomfeeder is a thoroughly enjoyable look at the world's cuisines and an examination of the fishing and farming practices we too easily take for granted.
Densely written, it's more travelogue and foodie
But so as to not give up entirely, the concluding section includes resources for making good-for-you, good-for-the-planet seafood choices -- including pocket reference guides and even websites that are searchable by cell phone while you peruse the menu at your favorite restaurant.
Surely you've heard that
Luckily, as a seafood lover, Grescoe writes about sustainable fish populations and does give very good, clear direction about what sorts of fish -- what species, and how and where they are fished or produced -- one can eat without feeling like one is contributing to the eventual demise of species, and isn't harming one's health with too much mercury, antibiotics or other nasty chemicals.
I loved reading about Grescoe's adventures in eating seafood around the world. Descriptions of sardines made my mouth water, descriptions of pufferfish made me recoil. This is an adventure in eating good food, and an education in how (as the subtitle says) to eat ethically in a world of vanishing seafood. I hope everyone who eats a lot of seafood will read it.
This book was fascinating. I live in Iowa, where we don't have a huge variety of native seafood, so much of the information in the book was completely new to me. Grescoe explains some of the reasons many fisheries are nearing collapse - overfishing, bad methods of fishing, and fish farming have resulted in a large number of fish that are on the verge of being commercially extinct. He also explains that many famous chefs, by continuing to insist on offering these nearly extinct fish on their menus, are contributing to the demand for them worldwide, leading to more bad fishing methods and overfishing.
He explains the concept of trophic levels, which is the number assigned to every living thing on earth based on what they consume. Phytoplankton are given a 1, and a human is given a 5. He then shows that fish at the highest trophic levels - tuna, cod, Chilean sea bass, shark - are the ones that are most often overfished, and often contain the most contaminants. He then presents the concept of bottomfeeding - eating the fish at lower trophic levels, such as halibut, mackerel, oysters, and trout. These fish have fewer contaminants, making them healthier for us, and are generally harvested in sustainable ways, making them healthier for the environment as well. At the end of the book, he offers several pages of resources designed to assist consumers in making more ethical seafood choices.
Grescoe's book is not only interesting, but incredibly entertaining. He does a great job of bringing the many characters he meets on his travels to life. His ability to capture the flavor of the meal he is eating made it easy to put myself in his place. I also appreciated his honesty about many of the internal struggles he experienced - wanting to eat something delicious, but knowing the dangerous or unethical way it was harvested. It is rare to enjoy reading a book that teaches me so much, but this book offered both entertainment and enlightenment, and I am very glad I was able to read it.
By Taras Grescoe
I was really looking forward to reading this book and I was not disappointed. When it comes to eating seafood responsibly I have always felt at a loss for information. First of all I grew up in North Eastern Ohio and the only “local” fish there came from Lake Erie
I found that much of what I thought
If you eat any sort of fish at all, you really ought to read this book.
There's a useful appendix about fishing methods (good, bad, ugly), and specific fish (never, sometimes, always) -- shrimp and tuna in particular come off very poorly.
Very highly recommended!