The Peabody Museum’s Thursday night talk was quite a catch.
Paul Greenberg, author of the 2010 New York Times best seller “Four Fish: Future of the Last Wild Tuna,” visited the Peabody Museum on Thursday to speak on the future of fishing. Over 100 Yale students and community members, including fishermen, biologists, aquaculturalists and chefs, attended Greenberg’s discussion on the growth of the fishing industry and the impact of farmed fishing on the world.
Greenberg proposed that the main pillars of the fish market could be summarized by four species: salmon, cod, bass and tuna.
Over the past half century, the fishing industry has boomed. World War II led to a revolution in fishing technology because of sonar technologies and new polymers for nets and lines. In the 60 years since, fishing yield has quintupled, and today the industry produces 90 million tons of fish each year. This massive production has led to the growth of fish farming.
One example of the transition from fishing to farming can be seen in salmon. In the New Haven area, salmon have been around for centuries, Greenberg said. The first Yale campus in Old Saybrook was situated on the Connecticut River where “once upon a time,” up to 50,000 wild salmon came up each year but this population has since been eliminated by river dams. Greenberg added that, consequently, each successive generation “has a diminished understanding of abundance in the wild.”
The “salmon Eli Yale ate” is no longer a part of our local food culture, Greenberg said. Today, Atlantic salmon in the market is almost exclusively farmed.
“In fact, farmed fish and wild fisheries will compose equal parts of the market within the next 10 years … representing a significant shift towards farmed food,” said Greenberg.
The same story can be told for European sea bass, he said. The Mediterranean waters cannot sustain continuous sea bass fishing and this spurred a “Manhattan Project of sea bass farming,” where European countries competed to domesticate the fish.
The modern fish industry began with salmon and sea bass, Greenberg said, and expanded further out to sea. Salmon are “the Chinese food delivery of the sea,” he said, explaining that they travel up streams from the ocean. Bass are the “backyard fish.” Cod and tuna, meanwhile, are found farther out to sea and are much more difficult to regulate, Greenberg said.
Tuna is the fish which most significantly blurs the line between food and wildlife, he added.
“Maybe the whole world should not be our fishing ground, maybe we should strike some kind of balance,” Greenberg said, suggesting that at least one type of tuna be designated wildlife, off limits to fishing.
Kierran Broatch, a local fisherman, agreed with Greenberg’s call for regulation of ocean fishing.
“Tuna might be extinct in our lifetime and that worries me,” Broatch said.
Another attendee, Captain Wendell Corey of the Bridgeport Regional Vocational Aquaculture School, advocated fish farming as the solution to fishing demands.
“Farmed fishing is going to take over. … My family were always fishermen but I think the way to feed the world is aquaculture, where we can control what we eat,” Corey said.
Greenberg is currently working on his next book, “The Fish Next Door.”