21 April 2011

Review: World without Fish by Mark Kurlansky

How often do you think about ocean fish? Perhaps once a week when you decide to have it for dinner or maybe for two weeks out of the year when you go the shore for vacation. Mark Kurlansky believes we should think about fish a great deal more than that.

As a result of poor commercial fishing practices, pollution, global warming, and food fads, we are losing species of fish at an alarming rate. As early as the mid-nineteenth century some scientists were concerned that our oceans could easily be fished out. But politics, people's livelihoods, and public indifference have maintained the status quo.

In World without Fish, Kurlansky discusses all of these problems and more in a thoughtful, easy-to-understand manner. Although the book is geared to a young audience, Kurlansky has not dumbed-down the language, nor does he discuss serious environmental concerns in a cutesy style. Different fonts, photographs, drawings, a graphic short story, sidebars, and other elements make the text easy and fun to read, but the vocabulary and information are scientific and educational.

The primary message of this short book is that we must make immediate changes to the way in which we harvest fish. Yet Kurlansky is not an alarmist; he's a truth-teller. He is sensitive to and aware of the cultural and economic concerns of commercial fishing. He presents the argument that sustainable fishing--just like sustainable farming--is not only possible but vital to the health of our planet.

After exploring how overfishing came about and many of its long-reaching environmental effects, Kurlansky details several solutions, some of which were proposed centuries ago. He then explains why sustainable fishing may be the best answer. He presents the problems faced by fishermen as well as by environmentalists. He explains the difference between the short-term view and the long-term view. Always, he is respectful.

World without Fish goes beyond environmental awareness by showing readers what they can do to help bring about change. The book contains lists of resources and organizations as well as easy ideas and tips for taking action. Kurlansky gives readers practical advice on how to make a difference when they're at the fish market or in a restaurant.

Highly recommended for readers of any age who want to know more about current environmental issues. Teachers and homeschoolers will find World without Fish to be a welcome addition to their curriculum.

On a personal note, I was happy to see that the little Seafood Watch guide I carry in my purse was featured in World without Fish. In fact, Kurlansky includes an updated copy of the guide in the back of the book. The guide is also available as a phone app at the Seafood Watch website (I've already downloaded it).

To learn more about Mark Kurlansky, visit his website. See also my spotlight of his book Cod and review of his book Salt. This review will be linked to Kid Konnection, hosted by Julie at Booking Mama.

Published by Workman, April 2011
ISBN-13: 9780761156079
YTD: 40
Source: Review (print & audio) (see review policy)
Rating: A
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)


Zibilee 4/21/11, 9:30 AM  

I have seen this book on Shelf Awareness, and have been wondering about it. It does sound like it's an interesting reference, and I love that it's written so respectfully and without all the literary shouting that some other books seem to deal in.

Nise' 4/21/11, 10:04 AM  

I have family members that are very fish minded and when they try to tell me what they see is happening, I get lost. They would appreciate this book.

Barbara 4/21/11, 10:21 AM  

I began to learn about this issue when I lived in Maine years ago, and have been alert to the dangers ever since. It puts commercial fisherman and lobstermen in between a rock and a hard place. Tough problem.

Beth Hoffman 4/21/11, 12:28 PM  

My husband is very interested in this topic and I think he'd enjoy this book. Thanks!

bermudaonion 4/21/11, 12:40 PM  

This sounds like an important book. Carl's going to want that app for his phone too.

missrantsypants 4/21/11, 12:48 PM  

Great review!


BookGeek 4/21/11, 1:19 PM  

I think my niece would love this book. She is so passionate about nature. She gets very upset if we don't use her specially marked recycling containers at her dad's house when we come over. Thanks for suggesting this book!

Martha@Hey, I want to read that 4/21/11, 1:44 PM  

My son has joined my daughter and I in watching Top Chef and we had a discussion about sustainability, especially in fishing-I think this may be a good follow up book.

Julie P. 4/21/11, 2:30 PM  

Great Kid Konnection post! I saw this one on SA this week and thought it looked interesting!

Carol @ There's Always Thyme to Cook 4/21/11, 4:28 PM  

Very important! Thanks for the phone app link!

caite 4/21/11, 4:46 PM  

Yes, I agree this is no doubt a very important subject, but I have a problem with these books that make me feel like I am in the middle of a bunch of 'experts' who all, with total assurance, totally disagree.
Farm raised fish..bad, awful or the wave of the future...wild caught fish, fine or the ruin of the world..it makes my head swim. pun surely intended. ;-)

softdrink 4/21/11, 5:06 PM  

From the cover, I was thinking it looked like it was a novel. But then I recognized the author's name. Very tricky marketing. :-)

jayayceeblog 4/21/11, 8:51 PM  

Such a timely subject and sounds like a good read!

Meg @ A Bookish Affair 4/21/11, 9:23 PM  

This sounds like a good read! I think it's so important for us to know what's going on with our food sources!

Pam (@iwriteinbooks) 4/22/11, 6:34 AM  

Wow, as a vegetarian and environmentalist, I love the concept of this book. Although, it looks a little bit scary, as do most books or shows or documentaries on the "what ifs" of the global crisis prediction. Thanks for the great review! I need to check this out, now, clearly.

Vasilly 4/22/11, 10:02 AM  

I was just looking this book up this morning! Great review!

Leslie 4/22/11, 6:20 PM  

I didn't know there was a seafood watch pocket guide. Thanks for mentioning that, I'm downloading my copy now.

Dawn @ sheIsTooFondOfBooks 4/23/11, 8:05 AM  

I brought this book home a few weeks ago, but have had time to give it only the briefest of glances. However, my 13 yr old son has read it cover-to-cover (several times) and our 8 yr old has picked it up, too. As a result, THEY led a dinner conversation about Kurlansky's book and sustainable fishing. This led to a broader conversation about the concept of sustainability. I was impressed that WORLD WITHOUT FISH struck them so - the format is a wonderful vehicle for this message to hit a wide spectrum of readers.

p.s. you carry the SEAFOOD WATCH guide with you?! Thank goodness for that new app :)

Laura Fabiani 4/23/11, 2:38 PM  

What an interesting book to increase awareness in the next generation about the issue of over fishing. This book is new to me but I will take note of it. I used to have a Seafood Watch guide but I no longer know where it is. Thanks for the link to get it!

Chinoiseries 4/25/11, 4:23 AM  

I love how this book is geared towards people of all ages, which means children could read it too. Adding this one to my to-read list!

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