Book Review: The Fish Market

Nov 2, 2018

This is KLCC.  I’m Connie Bennett with a book review of “The Fish Market” by Lee van der Voo.

Well, sure, I like to eat fish.  And I’m concerned about sustainability.   But beyond carrying the Seafood Watch list of endangered fish in my purse, I hadn’t really followed the recent changes in fishing policy in the United States.  Occasional news updates were more confusing than elucidating, with lots of unfamiliar acronyms and bureaucratic red tape.

Fortunately, Lee van der Voo, a Portland-based independent journalist, has written a fascinating page turner in her book, “The Fish Market: Inside the Big-Money Battle For the Ocean and Your Dinner Plate.“  She tells vivid stories of real people – David and Goliath stories – like Buddy Guindon betting his house on the chance to get shares in a Gulf fishery.  Like Aaron Longton persisting against odds – and the big trawlers – to keep the tradition of artisan small-boat line fishing out of the port of Port Orford.  She talks about Alaskan crab fishermen like Tom Miller going from earning $12,000 in sixteen days to being forced into retirement. 

Moving from fishing boats and docks to the U-shaped board room tables where policy is decided, van der Voo clearly explains the new fish-shares system, where rights to fisheries are awarded not unlike the old land grants.  Fish-shares have brought needed reforms and stability to our nation’s seafood markets, but – as implemented – at the cost of privatizing more than half the nation’s fisheries.  It all seems rigged in Goliath’s favor.

The pages burst with passion and compassion and an underlying assumption that science-based policy makes intelligent sense.  It’s easy to see why it’s the Oregon Book Award winner for General Nonfiction this year.

This is KLCC.  I’m Connie Bennett, reviewing “The Fish Market” by Lee Van Der Voo.