Read American Catch: The Fight for Our Local Seafood by Paul Greenberg Online


INVESTIGATIVE REPORTERS & EDITORS Book Award, Finalist 2014"Greenberg’s breezy, engaging style weaves history, politics, environmental policy, and marine biology." --New Yorker 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 surprisINVESTIGATIVE REPORTERS & EDITORS Book Award, Finalist 2014"Greenberg’s breezy, engaging style weaves history, politics, environmental policy, and marine biology." --New Yorker 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, Green¬berg 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.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.”Jane Brody, New York Times “Excellent.”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.”...

Title : American Catch: The Fight for Our Local Seafood
Author :
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ISBN : 9781594204487
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 320 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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American Catch: The Fight for Our Local Seafood Reviews

  • Casey
    2018-11-16 16:20

    The huge salmon filet that I bought and cooked for my family a few nights ago was both incredibly delicious and simple. I seasoned it with some kosher salt, freshly ground pepper, and Californian extra virgin olive oil. I then broiled it for a just a few minutes, until the skin started crackling, then topped it with more olive oil and fresh dill. Of course, it would have been a sin to cook it all the way through: I like my salmon fairly rare in the center. And there's the rub: I only feel comfortable cooking salmon this way when I can find wild Alaskan salmon that has been processed in the US. Sadly, this high quality fish (which is critically important if we want to improve the health of the millions of Americans who are overweight or obese) can be difficult to find in American grocery stores. I'm lucky to have a wonderful grocer down the street, that sources many different types of wild Alaskan salmon. Sadly, a large number of stores only stock imported farmed salmon, which obtains its pink hue from artificial food coloring.American Catch deals with the shocking fact that the United States exports most of its high quality wild fish to more discerning countries (mostly in Southeast Asia). Most of the seafood that Americans eat is imported from questionable farmed sources in Asia. Yes, this is complete madness that's bad for health, and bad for taste. Farmed tilapia is increasingly popular throughout the US: it's main appeal is that it doesn't really taste like fish. In reality, it doesn't really taste like anything. It's the boneless, skinless chicken breast of seafood, and it's not even particularly healthy. The omega-3 rich wild salmon we catch in droves in Alaska is, apparently, "too fishy" for the American palate.This is a book that makes me increasingly angry with the American proclivity to value price and quantity over quality. Even though I live in a city that borders the ocean, with many people who are obsessed with good food, I don't frequent a good fishmonger. I have to carefully examine my fish purchases, because many grocery stores stock fish that's not sustainable. I'd love to catch some San Francisco Bay oysters, but we kind of ended up screwing up their entire ecosystem. Oops. This is doubly bad because bivalves filter the water, making it clean and safe.I recommend American Catch to anyone who eats seafood; it's shocking how screwed up the seafood system is in the US.

  • Ben
    2018-10-26 18:16

    A polemical companion to "Four Fish," but not quite as strong. The general thesis is that America used to have (and in many cases still does have) significant seafood resources but we have wasted, destroyed, or ignored them. In their place, we rely upon largely foreign-produced seafood, while exporting our best stuff abroad. There's a fair amount of focus on us exporting things to China, which may be wrong but is hard to not view as a slightly xenophobic argument. But the parts in here about the destruction of various aqua habitats is more compelling. In particular, the first section on New York oysters and their old role in helping to clean the harbor and attempts to reinsert them today is a fascinating story about attempts at environmental cleanup. The shrimp section on the destruction in Louisiana plus how foreign goods drive the price down is not quite as good, while the sockeye salmon chapter has some lovely writing around fisheries and what these creatures look like, but also suffers a bit from the CHINA! menace.Part of what weakens Greenberg's arguments a bit on the shrimp and salmon side is he doesn't spend that much time on the consumer and marketing part of this problem. Part of the challenge with getting people to buy American seafood is it's not always clear in the grocery store exactly what you are getting. Atlantic salmon usually means farmed from Norway, but a very reasonable person could conclude it actually came from somewhere on the massive American Atlantic coast. Shrimp is basically never labeled with its home location. Basically, there's not really an American seafood brand. Now that I know sockeye salmon are American I'm more inclined to try them, but before that I had no great way of sorting out all the different varieties.But there's a consumer problem here too. Americans don't like to eat particularly fishy fish. I'm sure there are cultural/historical reasons for this, but a bit more unpacking of this issue would be worthwhile. Greenberg does do this with shrimp, which prompts an interesting discussion about how their shells affects muscle fiber in a way that contributes to their great mouthfeel (possibly the ickiest way to describe taste). Figuring out ways to get Americans to consider things that they might not normally try has to part of this strategy.Cost is also inescapable. If you don't market shrimp as one thing or another, then most people are probably just going to pick the cheapest cost item--if there are even multiple price points available in the store. I don't know what sockeye salmon cost, but wild fish tend to be much more expensive than the farmed stuff. Similarly, tilapia and catfish, which are also extremely popular, are among the cheapest seafood options in the store. The cost seems to matter here a lot and isn't something that should be forgotten.

  • Peggy Page
    2018-11-05 14:11

    A different take on the fisheries crisis, this book is not about over-fishing but about the strange paradox of where American fish wind up, and what fish wind up on American plates. Greenberg makes a good case for his chief concern: that the lack on appetite (literally) for wild caught local fish leads Americans to be careless about the health of the ecosystems which sustain those fish. He claims, no doubt correctly, that Americans don't like wild fish because they don't want to touch it, don't know how to cook it and don't want it smelling up their expensively appointed show kitchens. This is after all a nation that thinks "seafood" is the pasty, rubbery white shrimp lumps that Red Lobster offers at ridiculously low prices and obscenely high quantities. I had no idea that 91percent of the seafood Americans eat comes from abroad (much of it raised or caught with questionable sustainability) or that the vast majority of our locally caught fish is exported. We export the good stuff and import the crap. It's that simple. A very readable and useful book.

  • Brianna Bowman
    2018-10-26 19:09

    I had read Paul Greenburg's other well-known book, Four Fish, and knew that I would gain much needed insight from American Catch. The dilemma that Greenburg presents - Americans exporting a majority of seafood that we catch, and importing a majority of what we consume - was something that was brought to my attention when I worked for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife for a summer. I was aware of a lot of ocean caught salmon being brought in to ports in Astoria, and yet it was surprisingly difficult to find locally caught salmon that I could buy from a store. Most of it, someone had told me, after it was processed in Astoria, was shipped to an inland distributor. I was able to track down locally caught salmon in a small co-op grocery store, at an exorbitant price - $20 for a small tail-piece fillet! It started to dawn on me that most of the seafood that I ate at restaurants on the coast wasn't even from there - it was mostly an illusion. Greenburg presents this issue with three examples - oysters, shrimp, and salmon - with the salmon chapter being the strongest of the three (though I may be biased, given that it's on Bristol Bay sockeye salmon, and I live in Alaska). Greenburg's writing style is effortless, tying together so much information in such an efficient amount of space without sacrificing narrative. I would say that there is a intangible blandness to his writing style, and I believe that's why I may have had a hard time getting through the book the first time. I would have a hard time narrowing down Greenburg's voice to any particular style that I could identify out of a lineup, but he is effective in telling the story of American seafood, and it is apparent how much he cares about the issues. Particularly in the chapter about Bristol Bay salmon and Pebble Mine, I think he managed to present both sides, perhaps not at a true balance - let's say 60% leaning towards Bristol Bay salmon, and 40% given to the Pebble Mine side. Even if there is some bias, Greenburg is always forthcoming about what that bias is. He has fantastic contacts and stories, including a brief interaction with Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. If you are interested in understanding the economics of the American and global seafood industry, or have a friend who is studying fisheries science and you want to understand them a little better, then I would highly recommend this book.

  • Nicole Means
    2018-10-29 19:18

    "American Catch" reminds us that as the appetite of consumerism of the developed world becomes insatiable, our coastlines suffer. Big companies listen to our unrealistic demands for year-round supplies of fruits, vegetables, and fish. Greenberg tells the story of the ill-impacts of our seafood as a global economy through the history of three American favorites: oysters, salmon, and shrimp. Having lived in Louisiana for over 30 years, the chapter on shrimp and its bleak future on American shores caught my attention. Sadly, much of our shrimp production is outsourced to Vietnam. (Yes, not only is East Asia dominating light industrial production, but now it seems this region is dominating our seafood industry, as well). Unbeknownst to consumers, more and more seafood is exported from overseas markets. Louisiana, once known for its delicious redfish and luscious shrimp, is not only losing marshland but its economy is at great risk. Sadly, who will notice if our 'shrimp nursery' disappears since the foreign market will pick up our slack. I gave the book a rating of 4. I found my mind wandering in certain portions of the book. However, Greenberg's writing reminds us that we are all ecological stewards. His book ends on a positive note that we still have an abundance of fish within our own waters and it is not too late for us. We can still be self-reliant on our own shores, we just have to educate our citizens that certain foods should not be eaten during all seasons. After all, absence does make the heart grow fonder, and our food taste more like food and less like overly processed rubbish.

  • Curt Fox
    2018-11-03 17:05

    Via Goodreads First Reads:Paul Greenberg has set some lofty expectations among his readers, and as in previous books, he's lived up to them quite capably. This book focuses on three sea creatures, the sockeye salmon, the Louisiana brown shrimp, and the Eastern oyster. And he seems to structure it by ascending hopefulness for the species in terms of edibility and continued availablility, from the dire state of the oyster, to the on-the-fence status of the shrimp, to the cautiously sunny outlook for the salmon. He artfully blends history with contemporary circumstances, making clear where we, and the fish, were, and how we got to where we are now. He is clear but mostly objective in his handling of the man-made obstacles and disasters we've delivered upon the creatures, and discusses the importance of responible fishing practices, and low-impact farming. But I found myself with a specific question through most of the book: How do we sustain the market for American seafood?He suggests broaddening our palate, but with lower prices for imported, farmed fish, aren't the budget-conscious justified in looking to save money?Should Alaska NOT export its ample salmon supply if it's not selling well in the US?And while in a perfect world the fish we eat would be wild, isn't it a tad naive to expect that to be the case in today's post-industrial global economy?And at no point is the one-stop, magic bullet panacea suggested. But then it came clear for me, that there's no one big solution, but rather, many smaller, but still collectively effective, ones. Buy local when you can, support smaller co-ops, broaden your palate- these are just a few of the ideas suggested throughout the book. And in the end, the picture, if not rosy across the board, at least has the potential to brighten as we become more conscious of just where we fit in the Big Cycle, and play a more responsible role. Well-researched, well-presented, and well-considered, you'll be not only wise, but well-informed and well-entertained spending time with this book.

  • Steve Peifer
    2018-10-23 12:27

    First of all, above all, this guy can write. This is as compelling of a read as I've had in awhile. About my favorite thing in non-fiction is to be surprised and become interested in something new. This is about seafood, and the ecology and economics and politics that surround it. Absolutely fascinating reading. If you get on the internet and look up how to order Alaskan sockeye salmon direct from a fishermen, my guess is that you won't be the only one.

  • Ginny Stuckey
    2018-11-07 19:19

    Read it! The downside of reading books about our food is that I realize I'm eating garbage and am destroying the world most days; BUT the upside is that I learn what I could be doing better. And the kind folks as Whole Goods are always so accommodating when I develop new questions about the source of my supper.

  • Genna
    2018-10-20 14:26

    "All that the sea asks of us is that we be wise in our harvest, recognize the limits of its bounty, and protect the places where seafood wealth is born. In return the sea will feed us and make us smarter, healthier, and more resilient."What makes for great nonfiction writing, in my opinion, is passion. Greenberg is a hands-on researcher and environmental advocate, but he's also a fisherman. His texts ring with authenticity and true appreciation for his subject matter, making him one of my favorite environmental/nature nonfiction writers. Greenberg's writing is engaging and fluid, his research thorough without dragging. Additionally, he introduces me to spectacular new words like "nadir", "milquetoast", and "Pollyanna".American Catch is divided into three primary segments, which cover the current state of and rehabilitation efforts of the oyster beds along the New York coastline, the Louisiana shrimp industry and, finally, the sockeye salmon of Alaska and its respective fishing enterprise. In particular, Greenberg is interested in the potential role revitalized oyster beds could play in a human/ocean symbiotic relationship and environmentally responsible future of coastal living, the impact of overseas shrimp farming and oil spills on the local industry, and the potential of the Pebble Mine in Bristol Bay to singlehandedly destroy the most productive and self sufficient remaining wild salmon run in the U.S."Whether we choose to embrace the ocean or not, it is coming to embrace us, faster than many of us can believe."Oysters are one of my favorite sea creatures, both from a culinary and ecological standpoint. Unassuming in appearance and nature, they are little powerhouses of the sea, filtering gallon after gallon of water, providing ideal habitats for other ocean dwellers, and protecting our coastlines from natural disasters and rising sea levels. I particularly enjoyed Greenberg's brief but intriguing segment on oysters as coastal architecture/infrastructure ("oyster-tecture"), which envisions the idea of shaping oysterbeds into a natural combatant against rising tides and environmental disasters such as hurricanes. While only a third of the meat of Greenberg's second text devoted to the state of the fishing industry is focused on wild oysters and oyster farming in the Northeast, it was the strongest portion of the read for me, an unabashed oyster enthusiast.Also of great interest in this particular narrative is what lies at the root of the problem. While oil spills and mining and poor sewage systems of course are a major factor in the rather abysmal state of our waterways, the major culprit of a struggling once core industry is the American consumer. Specifically, the reality of American seafood consumption. The average American consumer hates the taste and smell of fish and wants to be able to serve it on the dinner table with as little direct contact with the fishiness of seafood as possible. Therefore, the most healthful, environmentally responsible of our seafood is shipped abroad in favor of farmed flavorless and odourless fish, such as the bland suburban favorite tilapia. These foreign aquaculture varieties flood the American markets despite minimal inspection and lack many of the vital nutrients that has people turning towards seafood in the first place. A disheartening and rather disturbing affair.Despite the potential for 300 pages of doom and gloom regarding the current state of our waters, Greenberg does an impeccable job of presenting the facts with clarity, but also enough positivity to show that hope still exists and that with enough dedication and elbow grease, change is possible. This is a conscious approach he addresses in American Catch, as he outlines not only his desire to present readers with a positive narrative but his own infallible hope for the future of American waterways and their inhabitants. An informative, absorbing read; rich with storytelling.

  • Heather Snowe
    2018-11-10 12:12

    I found myself at the end of this book before I even suspected that I was close. This happened because apparently 40% of the book is endnotes, which is neither here nor there but does say something about a book's construction and documentation. This is a book about American fisheries, with an agenda focused on raising awareness about seafood as a natural resource that United Statesians should be both protecting and consuming. It's presented in 3 sections meant to show U.S. fisheries at different stages of health: New York oysters (fucked up beyond any near-term redemption), gulf shrimp (struggling, but possibly still viable under the right management?), and Alaskan sockeye (healthy and reasonably well-managed as a fishery, but constantly under threat from mining interests). I found myself most absorbed by the oysters, because the impact of their removal on the ecosystem was so catastrophic yet there is a surprising amount of hope that they could make a comeback as water-quality engineers, even if it will be another 50 years before we could start eating them.

  • Cynthia
    2018-10-31 15:13

    I haven't finished this book yet (though it is a fast read), but I'm already giving it a 5.There is a lot of information in here that most people already know, but it was instructive to have it all assembled in one place - and there's also a lot of new information I learned. Clearly, right now my interest has swerved to non-fiction books, particularly well written topical ones. I think I'll just start reading NPR-recommended books for a while. (And "son-in-law" recommended!)Reading this will change my food shopping and eating habits. Unfortunately, it's also deepening my feelings of despair about our current political climate and values. What could be more important than investing in and protecting our natural resources and parks? Prioritizing our spending on fixing the damage that has already been done to our ecosystems?

  • Tiffany
    2018-10-29 15:24

    When I mentioned starting this book, a friend said "that sounds depressing." They weren't wrong. This book was certainly interesting and very informative, with deep dives (pun intended) into New York oyster, Louisiana shrimp, and Alaskan salmon populations and what they've faced. It's certainly written from a pro-fishing point of view, and I thought he spent far too little time on the issue of by-catch. But, as the seafarer's version of Michael Pollan's Botany of Desire, this was a good overview of American seafood issues, and I learned a lot about industries I previously knew little about.

  • Chelsea
    2018-11-05 12:03

    More reviews available at my blog, Beauty and the Bookworm.I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I love food. And of all the foods I love, seafood is at the very top of that list. When I was in high school, if I got straight As, my dad would take me out for all-you-can-eat snow crab legs at one of our favorite restaurants. In more recent times, I've dragged my boyfriend out on a quest for fried clams because I decided I had to have them right now, and then spent a week in Maine eating sea food at literally every meal. Fish and chips (cod), fish tacos with a cilantro-lime crema (tilapia), lobster pots, crab cakes, steamed mussels, grilled trout, spicy crunchy yellowtail rolls, broiled scallops, blackened catfish...the list goes on and on. If it dwells in water, I'll eat it. I trace much of this back to growing up in Erie, Pennsylvania, which was once the largest fresh-water fishing port in the world, mainly for one item: Lake Erie perch. When I visit home these days, I make a point of ordering up some fried perch, one of the most delectable fried fish you can ever consume and one that came right out of the waters I grew up by. Until now, it never occurred to me that eating Lake Erie perch--a fish that was caught within miles of where I ate it--was unusual. But guess what? It is. It's very unusual. And that's a very, very bad thing.Greenberg uses American Catch to dig into all the problems with how Americans use and view seafood. The US controls more fishing grounds than any other country, and we have an extremely long coast line, and yet the vast majority of our seafood is shipped off to countries like China--and most of the seafood we eat is imported from those same countries, which doesn't seem to make a lot of sense. Using three examples--New York oysters, Gulf shrimp, and Alaskan sockeye salmon--Greenberg illustrates how this came about and what the implications for it are. We constantly decimate our coastlines and the salt marshes that comprise them in order to create more land for agriculture and more desirable places for the rich to vacation, all the while destroying the habitats and breeding grounds of local sea food; we did this to such a degree in New York City that it's actually illegal to eat the New York oysters that survive there, because the water is so polluted that eating said oysters can make people sick. And we do this even though creating an environment that can sustain oysters is good for the city: oysters filter water and create reefs that can help lessen the effects of of storm surges, like the one that decimated so much of the city in Hurricane Sandy. On the shrimp front, we allow industry, such as big oil, to pollute the Gulf of Mexico and destroy our coast and the shrimp that live and breed there, and mess with the Mississippi River until it's basically just shooting washed-off fertilizers from big agriculture into the Gulf and creating a deoxygenated dead zone where nothing can live. And in Alaska, on Bristol Bay, the largest salmon run in the world with some of the best salmon there is, we ponder letting a huge mine destroy the area because it offers a faster payout than fishing does. And for some reason, we don't see most of this as a problem.Greenberg really digs into why this is; why we're blind to the problem of seafood because it doesn't present itself as a problem. After all, I can still grab as many pounds of shrimp as I want from the grocery store, so why should the problem of the Gulf come to my mind? Does it really matter that the shrimp I'm buying come from farms that are wreaking similar havoc in Asia, and that the shrimp are likely heavily dosed with antibiotics to avoid the diseases that can decimate harvests? probably does. And if it doesn't, it should. I can very easily see this book being painted as a tool of the "liberal media" by conservatives, who, as Greenberg points out, tend to see any attempt at regulation as an interference with their god-given rights to do whatever the hell they want, and screw anyone who disagrees. But the fact of the matter is, the way that we treat seafood isn't sustainable, and if I want to be able to enjoy a big piece of salmon years down the road, our attitudes toward it have to change. This isn't really a new idea, but it is an important one that nonetheless seems to get lost in the shuffle, and the more it's brought up, the more potential there is for people to listen and enact change.This is a great book, one that uses a few solid examples in conjunction to make a much larger and powerful point, and one that brings in a lot of the people who are actually, personally affected in order to illustrate how the issues in the industry can drag us down. It doesn't focus on just one geographic area, instead showing that our abuse of seafood truly is a national problem, from New York to Louisiana to Alaska, and that we need to consider the bigger picture of how we view seafood if we're going to fix it. Because of the subject matter, it's a book that can come across a little preachy at times, which is typical for books like this and somewhat unavoidable, and Greenberg gets all cheery at the end in what I think was an attempt to avoid blatant fearmongering. Still, after reading this one, I know one thing: I'll probably be looking into where my seafood comes from a little more closely from now on.4 stars out of 5.

  • Kbg503
    2018-10-25 17:01

    Wanted to learn more about efforts in NY to restock oysters after watching the YouTube story by Zagat. And after reading about shrimp and salmon industry, you learn about the people that strive to keep these ecosystems sustainable, local and national government regulations, international trade practices, and ultimately what ends up on our plate.

  • Christopher
    2018-11-08 16:02

    If you liked his previous book, you will really like this one too. It's an in-depth examination of all the history of how we eat fish in America. It focuses on oysters, then shrimp, then salmon - putting them in context of health, environment and the economy. I'm pretty picky on science writing, but this is really excellent.

  • Crystal Forbes
    2018-10-18 14:08

    Fascinating read - I plowed through it in a couple of days. Highly recommend to anyone who enjoys eating local! Renewed my interest and taste for seafood and continued engagement in environmental protection.

  • John Plaisted
    2018-11-16 11:16

    Good overview of oysters, shrimp, and salmon in the US. Gives the past, present, and future of fishing major species in the US. Interesting advocacy of how our approach to seafood should be. Not necessarily balanced but a good read

  • Mike
    2018-10-28 13:20

    Next time you’re in the supermarkets seafood section, you might be surprised where your seafood comes from. An exceptional read.

  • Jen
    2018-10-20 14:18

    Not the best prose, but every responsible seafood eater must read this book.

  • Jim Kahn
    2018-10-29 14:17

    American Catch tells the tragedy, inefficiency, and comedy of the current state of our country's seafood industry by relating the histories of three foods: oysters, shrimp and sockeye salmon. This is not at all written from an environmentalist or preservationist perspective, rather this focuses more on an economic outlook. For example, while Americans eat more seafood than ever and in fact product a great amount of seafood still, we export the best of what we still produce (wild sockeye) and import massive quantities of utter crap (Chinese farmed tilapia). The result is an inefficient system which rewards unsustainable foreign aquaculture and does little to restore our once verdant wild seafood production capabilities.In the opening section on oysters, Greenberg explains how at one point the New York City area was possibly the greatest food producing ecosystem on the planet and particularly generous in regards to mollusks of which oysters were the most bountiful. Massive reefs consisting of trillions of oysters throughout the former estuary also had the effect of moderating the impacts of high water events such as hurricanes. Of course, hundreds of years of pollution, salt marsh draining, and dredging have completely destroyed this to the point that the few bits of life that still cling are illegal to eat because they are poisoned by their environment. I happened to be reading the end of this section just as I was flying into La Guardia, and I was struck by what a horrible tragedy it is of that once must have been an incredibly beautiful environment has been so utterly destroyed by this urban blight. Of course, this is the same story of every coastal city - London, Boston, New Orleans, San Francisco, etc were settled in large part because they were great sources of food. Not only have the immediate productivity of these estuaries been lost, but they also once served as spawning grounds for many other fish, exacerbating the general decline in ocean life.Ultimately, there are many ways we can learn from our past and take actions to restore both the protective nature of our now urban estuaries and to see the return of edible sea food production. Of course, we are our own worst enemies in this regard as red tape and political corruption are a presence here as in all other manners of our lives. For example, attempts to re-introduce wild oyster beds into NYC waters have been thwarted because Chris Christie, beholden to his southern NH oyster farm constituents, sued to have them removed as potential competition from a wild food source even though such a reality would be decades away. There are other examples of barriers to sustainable shrimp and salmon fishing as well. Overall, this is a good educational read which is recommended to anyone interested in the economic reality of seafood.

  • Tom
    2018-10-25 17:12

    In the last chapter before his conclusions, Greenberg muses about his task in writing this book. “Writers like me, trying to convey something about the state of the natural world, find ourselves in a tricky spot these days. There is a lot of bad news out there, but we know readers do not want to hear any more about it. They are tired of global warming, acid rain, the loss of biodiversity, overpopulation and the like. And so when we fashion our narratives it is with Pollyanna on our shoulders. No doubt the reader can detect that there is a dark void beneath our feet in spite of the positive stories we try to tell. [p.222]” But, he goes on to tell, there is hope for Bristol Bay in Alaska and the Sockeye Salmon. All in all he does tell a bleak story but keeps it interesting and is able to see some glimmers of hope, apparently realistically.This is a narrative description of environmental history told through three historically important seafoods: oysters, shrimp and Sockeye Salmon. Using these animals, and the parts of the country where they were/are found, he tells us about ourselves, our eating habits and how we have disconnected from the waters that created these foods. It is a great way to study history, economic policies and how we eat.The “I didn’t know that” facts are truly astonishing. We eat 15 pounds of seafood a year, 13 of which are imported. We still catch a lot of wild Alaskan salmon but export 79 percent of it while two thirds of the salmon we eat is farmed and comes from abroad. He explains how this happened and what is being done to reverse it, both in the re-establishment of healthy waters and the creation of new, local markets. It is a strange and interesting history. Each seafood story is different but are connected in terms of our country’s growth, cultural biases in terms of land farmed food and the pollution that spoiled our waters.The book is an entertaining and worthwhile read.

  • Bob H
    2018-11-14 18:08

    This book is something of an environmental case study -- three, in fact -- and a compelling lesson in economics and marketing, told through three simple foods and their sources: oysters in the New York City estuaries, shrimp in Louisiana and the oil-stained Gulf of Mexico, and salmon in far Alaskan waters. The author, as we see, has first-hand experience with the people and fisheries in all three areas and his report, from the scene, is compelling -- and concise and highly readable.It's not just a story of environmental damage, though he tells it plainly enough: the pollution and sewage in New York harbor, the oil spill in the Gulf, and the threat of the gold and copper Pebble Mine proposal to the salmon fisheries in Alaska. We learn just how badly our export of our remaining seafood -- and our import of cheaper seafood, such that it is, from Asia and elsewhere -- has distorted our own fisheries, our food industries and our nutrition. We learn just how many local jobs and industries are affected, and we see, more clearly, just how much economic damage goes hand-in-hand with environmental degradation.It is reversible, he says, but it will need a major change in mindset. This book helps; certainly the reader will think differently about what's on the dinner table. And the author is hopeful: "All that the sea asks of us," he writes, "is that we be wide in our harvest, recognize the limits of its bounty, and protect the places wehre seafood wealth is born. In return the sea will feed us and make us smarter, healthier, and more resilient in the process. Quite a covenant."Highest recommendation.

  • Jacob
    2018-10-28 14:25

    A worthy follow-up to “Four Fish,” this book is focused more on our domestic fisheries and waterways. Laying out the profound (and surprisingly recent) commodification and globalization of our domestic fish industry, Greenberg argues that our relationship to our local environment has been eroded to the point that fishermen suffer and we are no longer invested in our own natural resources. I am not sure how feasible it really is to return to a world of the local fish market over supermarket convenience, a “community supported fishing” or “locavore” model for seafood. But Greenberg does make a good argument that if we are to protect both our ecosystems and our fishing communities, it would do us well to reshape our relationship to seafood into a form far removed from the current global corporate food industry model.There are three main sections, focusing respectively on attempts to clean up New York area waters by planting oyster beds, a history of the Louisiana shrimp industry up to and including Deepwater Horizon’s effects, and the battle to protect the sockeye salmon of Bristol Bay from mining interests. All three are illuminating, and ordered from bleakest to healthiest fishery. The story never gets too dire, though; Greenberg does not like to end his stories without sharing glimmers of hope and profiles of those with a chance of making a substantial difference. I like that about his writing, and his writing style in general. Recommended if you are interested in the ecological health of American waterways, eating seafood responsibly, or if you both liked “Four Fish” and found it interesting.

  • Jonathan
    2018-10-30 12:58

    I liked this book, though his earlier "Four Fish" is much better. This one is in a similar vein but does not make a point quite as clearly. Unless you already understand the arguments for local food fairly well, I don't think this book would convince you as to its merits. It is an entertaining and mildly informative book, but he could have done much better at bringing in the economics, which he almost completely ignores, and more clearly establishing an argument. In some ways, a reader might conclude that Greenberg is just an isolationist and only cares about American wellbeing. After all, isn't there a clear argument that imported fish generates much needed income for the world's poor?There is certainly an argument for preserving American resources and environments, but there is also an argument for helping the poor abroad by increasing international trade. Trade and environment are often played off against each other, but I believe there is also a strong argument that preserving the environment in the end ALSO helps the poor abroad, and Greenberg completely ignores this side of the problem. Thus, the reader with a more holistic eye may simply conclude that Greenberg is in the same vein as other environmentalists who care more about nature than people. Maybe this is b/c he knows most American environmentalists do not particularly care for or understand the plight of the poor abroad, sadly. But nonetheless it is a significant oversight. As the book stands, it mostly just tells interesting stories that do not point to any one convincing thesis, but it was still an entertaining read.

  • Pat
    2018-10-31 19:14

    A book I want everyone I know to read. Author is an old-fashioned idealist, tireless researcher and very talented writer."What keeps Americans from eating from their local waters? The answer lies in an intricate interplay of ecology, economics, politics, and taste." Greenberg starts there and his subsequent description of that "...intricate interplay..." is revealed via the Eastern oyster ("...a miraculous natural architect..."), Gulf shrimp ("...the great delocalizer..."), and Alaskan salmon, a fish endangered by mining interests and shortsighted politics. Each of these main sections is educational, sobering, and energizing. "All that the sea asks is that we be wise in our harvest, recognize the limits of its bounty, and protect the places where seafood wealth is born. In return the sea will feed us and make us smarter, healthier, and more resilient. Quite a covenant."Passages like that are proof of what I've repeatedly heard; the best writing is re-writing. This was the author's seventh draft, per his acknowledgments. If you read those first two sentences aloud, their cadence is inescapable. And then his three word finale reinforces the triptychs embedded in the sentences directly preceding it. An important message delivered via writing magic.

  • Darlene Cruz
    2018-10-24 14:09

    I won an advance uncorrected proof copy of American Catch. This book will delectably entertain you with information of well presented research and suggestion. How we as Americans need to wake up and notice why our seafood are being brought in from other countries outside of the United States, supply dwindling? We have EPA, Clean Water Act, Federal Water Pollution Act, Swamp Land Act, Environmental Conservation, Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, many more, but does it hamper our seafood supply? San Francisco Bay Shrimp Fishery, New York Harbor Oysters, Salmon Cannery, California Olympia Oyster Beds, Oyster Point, Shrimp Processors, did their supply of oysters, shrimps, mussels, other seafood supply shrinking too? Worth mentioning Government contracts, $30 million grants, Partnerships, CEO's. Kuruma Prawns, hmm.......... discovery of it worth reading. So many information as to why, where and how and HOPE. The vision to bring America's catch back to the American consumers. Thank you, won this on Goodreads, First Read Giveaway, Darlene Cruz

  • Kelley Jansson
    2018-11-11 12:24

    I heard about this book on NPR and was so influenced by the interview that I just had to read the book. While the radio interview is probably sufficient to get the gist of the author's message, the book still turned out to be an insightful read about the unfortunate state of our nation's seafood industry. Focused on oysters (northeast), shrimp (gulf), and salmon (northwest), the author conveys our poor management of the ecosystems that could otherwise provide so much sustenance. I was fascinated to learn about the role of China in a few of the examples. As if there wasn't already enough reason to avoid products from China due to hazardous materials (ex: lead paint in children's toys), we can all add China-sourced seafood to the list due to the carcinogenic antibiotics that are used to protect the fish at the expense of human health. It's definitely time to convert to locally-sourced seafood. I can heartily recommend this book to anyone who cares about the environment and the U.S. economy.

  • Anna
    2018-11-11 11:15

    The disconnect between American fishermen and American fish eaters is pretty shocking. At the same time as 91% of seafood eaten in the US is imported, exports of American seafood have increased tremendously. Americans export Alaskan wild sockeye salmon (incredibly healthy) and eat the farmed crap from Asia. Similarly, try to find gulf shrimp and you'll only find the Asian kind. I already know enough not to eat the farmed rubbish and the environmental disasters that go along with it but I didn't know about the export of the American seafood. I already look for Alaskan salmon but I will now be more vigilant about it. I didn't know anything about the history of New York oysters but the pollution story is pretty damn depressing and the importance of the oyster beds to cleaning the water and protecting the coast is fascinating. I hope people continue to oppose Pebble Mine. What a disastrous idea that is!

  • Rindge Leaphart
    2018-11-09 19:27

    I was looking for more from this book. The author did a fine job describing how the US is no longer is a dominant producer of oysters, shrimp, and salmon. He also did a great job (although the oyster section was a tad too long) describing efforts underway to improve US production of oyster and shrimp. So what is lacking? As a consumer it would have been nice if he pointed out how we can make an impact in the super market. Are those gulf coast shrimp I buy at the market from the US or elsewhere? How about that salmon? What questions should I be asking of my fish monger? He actually provides enough data on the issues where one can easily formulate questions. It would have been nice though if he followed the product through the supply chain to the market and provided advice / insight on how as consumers we can make an impact with our wallets / pocketbooks.

  • Erin
    2018-11-17 17:17

    Although this book seemed promising, it lacked a strong thesis and the conclusion didn't offer any tips or solutions. Don't get me wrong, the info given here was very interesting and something I didn't previously know, but it's convoluted, drawn-out, and I felt like I was trudging through some of the chapters. So, I fast forward to the conclusion, expecting a "take-away" and then at least I could feel like I "got something" from the book. "take-away"After reading this book, I still don't know what to I eat seafood? Do I only eat American seafood (even though it's in short-ish supply)? Do I just eat beef? Ugh. What a waste of my time... It reads more like a high schooler's informational and slightly weak persuasive essay.