The Fight for Our Local Seafood
Penguin Press, 2014, hc, 320pp, $26.95, Kindle $10.99
"It is a particularly American contradiction that the thing we should be eating most is the thing most absent from our plates." The "thing" is fish. An equally grievous contradiction is that we export the fish we do catch and import farmed fish. That's not a contradiction...that's just plain nuts! And Mr. Greenberg is just the author to hammer the point home...all without ire or rancor. The man is a saint.
But I think, strategically, he would rather stir the ire of his readers and, at least in my case, he has succeeded. A while ago, our town had both a fish market and a lobster pound. The pound has prevailed. A condo is going up where the fish market used to be...it had waterfront...the fishing boats came right up to the dock at the back of the building.
"The U.S. controls more ocean than any other country (2.8 billion seafood producing acres). That is twice as much real estate as we've set aside for land food...and we produce multiple times more (veggies, etc) than needed for our population." You may have heard of the federal government's "surplus food program". The government buys farm surplus and hands it out to the needy but not before going through the added expense (to tax payers) of processing the heck out of it.
Adding insult to injury regarding the paucity of fish in our diet, all "recognized health authorities recommend seafood as key animal protein, rich in omega -3 which helps to lower incidence of such scary health conditions as heart disease, Alzheimer's, depression...even low sperm count". One third of the American seafood catch is sold abroad. So, who is benefiting from this healthy food?
But the practice of fishing U. S. waters and selling abroad isn't the only highway robbery taking place. Our own personal health and well-being is at risk as our coastlines are developed. In the last hundred years, over 70% of our salt marshes and wetlands have been drained away (waterfront real estate, baby, waterfront!). And the ocean is rising...Louisiana is losing marshland at the rate of a "football field an hour." Nearly half the U.S. population lives within ten miles of the coast. With such "gentrification, water dependent business were zoned out, the marshes are (were) the nurseries for countless sea creatures, not to mention a treasure trove of shellfish have been filled. What was not built on was polluted. (The Clean Water Act wasn't passed until 1972... (Thanks, Pete Seeger...remember the "Clearwater"?)
Enough ranting...things are looking up. More oyster beds are healthy and safe to eat. Schools in waterfront communities (especially New York City) have begun to include environmental (including oceans, rivers and coastlines) health to their curricula. For adults, Mr. Greenberg's book will be an exciting invitation to action for all of us.