One Fish or Two Fish, Red Fish or Blue Fish


5 Easy Pieces. How Fishing Impacts Marine Ecosystems . Pauly, D. 2010 . Island Press , Washington , D.C. $25 ( paperback). ISBN 978-1-59726-719-9.

Ecosystem Approaches to Fisheries. A Global Perspective . Christensen, V., and J. Maclean , editors. 2011. Cambridge University Press, New York, NY. 325 pp. $59 (paperback). ISBN 978-0-521-13022-6.

Let Them Eat Shrimp. The Tragic Disappearance of the Rainforests of the Sea . Warne, K. 2011 . Island Press , Washington , D.C. 166 pp. $29.95 (hardcover). ISBN 978-1-59726-683-3.

Four Fish. The Future of the Last Wild Food . Greenberg, P. 2010 . Penguin Group , New York , NY . 284 pp. $25.95 (hardcover). ISBN 978-1-59420-256-8.

Social consciousness of humanity's effects on ecosystems and resources is changing worldwide. Four recent books focus on the plight of ocean ecosystems and fisheries and help raise awareness of the use of aquaculture as a means to supplement the ever-growing demand for seafood. Two of these books are dense scientific explorations of how fisheries management and science have failed to sustain global fish stocks and marine ecosystems. These books also offer potential solutions to scientists and managers for rebuilding marine resources. The other two books are popular accounts of commercial, artisanal, and recreational fisheries and of the effects that fisheries and aquaculture have on marine ecosystems. They offer readers an understanding of where seafood comes from and the social and environmental effects of its harvest and consumption.

5 Easy Pieces and Ecosystem Approaches to Fisheries are science books aimed at fisheries students, scientists, and managers. Traditionally fisheries managers managed stocks separately from one another, but the decline and collapse of various global fisheries over the past 20-some years has led to the recognition that studying and managing fish stocks in isolation are ineffective ways to sustain harvests and that an ecosystem-based approach to fisheries management is necessary. In 5 Easy Pieces, Pauly documents this trend and explains how the majority of global fisheries are being harvested unsustainably. The five easy pieces in his title are the five major contributions that helped move the recognition of unsustainable global fisheries from academics to policy makers and the public. Pauly highlights that fisheries need to be rebuilt before they can be sustainably harvested and offers marine protected areas with no-take reserves as the primary means to rebuild fish stocks and a necessary tool for managing marine ecosystems. Pauly stresses the need for scientists to better communicate their findings to policy makers so that ecosystem-based management and marine protected areas will have scientific and public support.

Ecosystem Approaches to Fisheries is the result of a symposium held to honor the many contributions of Daniel Pauly to fisheries science and relates how he has helped fisheries management move toward an ecosystem approach. This book is a compilation of scientific papers and articles written by fisheries scientists, policy makers, and ecologists and goes into great detail about the data, assessment methods, and ecosystem-modeling approaches Pauly helped develop and champion. The final chapter of this book addresses the need for better communication between scientists, policy makers, and the public in order to develop popular support for the new management strategies necessary to rebuild fish stocks.

In Let Them Eat Shrimp and Four Fish, Kennedy Warne and Paul Greenberg attempt to educate a popular audience about the current state of fisheries and marine resources through a social lens instead of an ecological one. In Let Them Eat Shrimp, Warne examines the global decrease in mangrove forests due to shrimp aquaculture and tourism and highlights the status of these ecosystems and the local people who depend on them for survival. Kennedy Warne is a self-proclaimed environmental activist and his book carries that tone. He recounts his travels to various mangrove forests around the world and his experiences and interviews with the local resource users, conservation organizations, and international scientists working to conserve them.

Paul Greenberg's Four Fish looks at fisheries, aquaculture, and fish consumption through the histories of four well-known fishes: salmon, cod, bass, and tuna. Greenberg recognizes that “…contemporary demand [for seafood] is so large that any natural system is going to be taxed when subject to humanity's global appetite.” He therefore explores current and proposed aquaculture ventures and whether they can aid in satiating humanity's appetite for fish. Greenberg details the problems with current aquaculture and offers guidelines for choosing which fish to farm and which farmed fish to consume. He recognizes the difficult choices consumers and sport fishers have to make about fish consumption and provides a narrative that is thoughtful and educational.

Both Greenberg and Warne recognize they are discussing species and ecosystems that have yet to capture the hearts of the public. Fish are not whales or dolphins, mangroves are not coral reefs or rainforests, and yet their preservation and maintenance are just as important. As noted by J. Reichert in his essay in Ecosystem Approaches to Fisheries,“It is only rather recently that we have become aware that the domestication of wild places, and the commoditization of wild things, may ultimately do the human race great harm” (p. 283). Even more recently society has become aware of the true condition and great importance of global fish stocks and ocean ecosystems to food security. These four books all highlight the global dependence of humans on fish as a food source and the need for fisheries managers and policy makers to concentrate on rebuilding fish stocks. Four Fish and Let Them Eat Shrimp attempt to garner mainstream appreciation for food fisheries. Five Easy Pieces and Ecosystem Approaches to Fisheries aim to educate students, policy makers, and managers about the need to change management strategies and remind scientists of the importance of communicating their work to the public. Daniel Pauly may have said it best when he acknowledged that although fish populations will still be present in 2050, many global fisheries will not be sustainable in the future and that “it is in our hands to change their course.” We no longer have the luxury to ignore the unsustainable harvest of fishes, and we must pay attention, as consumers and conservation professionals, to how fish stocks are managed and protected. The tools exist to rebuild fish stocks, it is now necessary to put those tools to use.