Thursday, October 30, 2008

The fate of the Atlantic & our disappearing fisheries
Mark Kurlansky – Jonathan Cape - $37.99

Kurlansky is a fine writer with a string of outstanding non-fiction titles to his credit, (entertaining social history they have been aptly called), including Cod, Salt, and The Big Oyster.
In his new book he explores the fate of our oceans and the decline of our fisheries.
While this book is essentially about the Western Atlantic fishery the same message is relevant to all fisheries everywhere.

As the back cover blurb suggests the number of large fish in the world is down by 90 per cent, according to one well-credited report; a more controversial review of the research, published in Science in 2006, stated that there will be no commercially exploitable stocks of wild fish at all by 2048.
Here is how Christopher Hirst reviewing the book in The Independent back in August saw it:

Kurlansky looks at the tension between fishermen earning a living and preservation of the species they catch. He notes that the Icelandic cod wars were another sign of the danger of innovation. Disturbingly, species do not return even when fisheries are closed: "Something huge – a massive shifting in the natural order of the planet – is occurring in the oceans."
The closest place he has found on this side of the Atlantic to Gloucester is the Cornish port of Newlyn. Its fishermen now largely depend on spider crabs sold to Spain and the revival of the pilchard or "Cornish sardine". As eight buyers bid for one haddock in Newlyn's fish market, he wonders if "this was the future of commercial fishing."

He concludes this exceptionally enjoyable book, simultaneously elevating and worrying, by insisting that the loss of fishing will diminish us all. Gradgrinds may accuse him of sentimentality, but commercial fishing brings liveliness and interest, not to mention gastronomic appeal, to coastal communities in a way that no tourist facility can begin to match.
I am a great admirer of Mark Kurlansky, he’d make a great dinner companion I reckon, but as much as I enjoy his social histories I wish he would write some more fiction!

I loved his novel, Boogaloo on Second Avenue (2005) and his collection of short stories, The White Man in the Tree (2000), but come on Mark, what about writing some more?!

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