What is the summary of "Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food" by Paul Greenberg?

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Journalist Paul Greenberg’s 2010 nonfiction work Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food explores the global commercial fishing market and aquaculture, specifically regarding the consumption of tuna, cod, sea bass, and salmon. The central argument of this book is that people must manage our shared oceans so that fish can sustainably exist in farm settings and in the wild. Regarding salmon, for example, Greenberg shows how farming irresponsibly threatens wild salmon populations and argues that the seafood market has chosen the wrong fish to try to domesticate. This book includes accounts from all over the globe. Greenberg’s extensive research demonstrates how industrialized fishing has decimated wild populations of fish. The introductory chapter of this text concludes by saying that, through the story of these four fish, Greenberg will contrast “human wants” and “global needs.” However, he will also provide a solution for “equitable and long-lasting peace between man and fish.” The answer this work points to requires international political action and responsible ocean management.

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Greenberg’s book looks at four types of fish—cod, sea bass, salmon, and tuna—and discusses the challenges to developing methods for sustainably harvesting these fish. In particular, he describes the problems with farming fish and the market tensions that arise around consuming farmed fish instead of wild fish. Although consumers think of fish as a “wild food,” Greenberg points out that in most of the United States almost all of the salmon people eat is farmed. While salmon farming has been economically successful, farmed salmon are prone to parasites and can have adverse effects on wild populations should they escape. The sea bass is perhaps a more successful farming story: Greenberg describes the 2,000 year process of learning to farm this fish, which is also known as the branzino. Cod and tuna are examples of wild fish whose numbers have been severely diminished due to overfishing. While cod are protected by overfishing legislation, bluefin tuna have no such protection and have almost disappeared. Greenberg nevertheless has a hopeful conclusion—that the passion humans have for eating wild fish will lead them to develop ways of protecting them.

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Four Fish begins with a graphic description of AquaBounty's plan to modify salmon genetically in order to make them bigger and more suitable for human consumption. To produce the salmon, a chinook was crossed with an ocean "pout." The company claims the fish would be sterile, but environmentalists (and many others, including salmon farmers) cried foul.

Later, Greenberg talks extensively about the problems in salmon farming. The first problem is that it often takes three pounds of other wild fish, used for feed, to get one salmon ready for production. The next main problem is salmon are farmed in "sea cages" often submerged near a different type of salmon. Not only can the salmon introduce parasites and diseases, but they can escape, negatively affecting the ecosystem. 

Greenberg wants to figure out ways to deal with these issues and uses his book to do so. He looks into the recycling of fish feces, the reduction of pollution, the use of better cages, and better control of growing conditions. Probably the newest idea suggested is the integration of salmon with other sea creatures in order to create an appropriate environment. 

In conclusion, Greenberg also proposed different feed and even using a completely different fish for human consumption altogether: the little-known arctic char. As Greenberg says:

Arctic char strike me as a good environmental compromise and to my palate, they’re pretty tasty.

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