Salmon: A Fish, the Earth, and the History of Their Common Fate
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Is saving the salmon also the path to saving the planet?
Employing his trademark blend of historical research, compelling storytelling, and attention to human detail, Mark Kurlansky addresses here the history and future of salmon, one of the most prized fish that humans consume. For centuries humans have been altering the salmon’s environment for our own advantage, sometimes ignorant of the consequences and sometimes heedless. Ironically, the salmon’s rise in prestige as an eating fish coincides with these changes, as people created scarcity where once there was abundance.
History buffs will enjoy Kurlansky’s reference to Caesar’s campaigns—during which Roman soldiers were amazed to see rivers full of leaping fish–to Thoreau’s lament for salmon runs blocked by dams that powered New England mills, and even to Francisco Franco’s efforts to preserve Spanish salmon stocks. Similarly, his explorations of the distinctive biology of various salmon species (and the confusing presence of trout in different branches of their taxonomy), allow for frequent mention of various salmon buffs, including Sir Humphrey Davy and the unfortunate Georg Wilhelm Steller, a German naturalist whose efforts to return home from Siberia with his notes on local salmon were thwarted by bureaucrats, thieves, and wild dogs.
Less diverting, however, will be his discussions of the impact human industries, including aquaculture, have had on native fish stocks worldwide. Change is necessary, Kurlansky argues, the same sorts of changes that will lessen unwelcome human influence on other residents of the planet.
There are recipes throughout the book in support of historical and cultural context. Extensive illustrations reveal everything from pre-historic human interest in salmon to the fish’s lifecycle and habitats.
Hardcover. Color photographs throughout.