By Kirsten Yerger
On October 22, 2015, Pace University School of Law’s first Environmental Author-in-Residence, Paul Greenberg, presented a lecture based on his award winning book, Four Fish. Greenberg has traveled the world studying aquaculture and asking pertinent questions on how and why we look at fish and the ocean as we do. In fact, just prior to the lecture, Greenberg spent time in New Guinea where he conducted research and participated in an outdoor TEDtalk.
Greenberg began by explaining the question that has guided his research: Why do we see fish as “flesh architects” rather than the whole fish? He explained that in his studies he has found that “non-fish people” look at fish by their flesh architect; that is, the fish is determined, or grouped with other fish, by what it looks like and what you can do with it, rather than its scientific designation. Greenberg stated that his phenomenon has only increased over time as new technologies for fish capture developed after World War II and aquaculture emerged and began dominating the market (currently the amount of fish produced through aquaculture is almost more than that caught at sea.)
Greenberg submitted that the main four fish architects are salmon, tuna, sea bass, and cod. Each fish architect has specific attributes and positive and negative impacts on fish wildlife and the environment. For example, wild salmon no longer exists in many areas of the world especially the east coast of the United States where dams interrupt the migratory patterns. Salmon are therefore difficult to fish in the wild yet through selective breeding, have become increasingly efficient to farm. For instance, Salmon only require to two pounds of wild bait in order to produce one pound of Salmon, where Tuna requires twenty pounds!
Additionally many fish that have little to no genetic similarities are categorized in to one flesh architect, defined by certain characteristics. For example, Cod has become any white fish that is able to be fried or act as a “dough delivery system.” Halibut, Atlantic Cod, Alaska Pollock, and Tilapia are all considered to be part of the Cod flesh architect. This is very similar to Bass that has had three different fish considered Bass in the culinary world.
Finally, Greenberg concludes by stating that we need to start to draw the line between wildlife and food. He suggests that we create standards for farming fish based on several different elements, possibly including a carbon analysis or on animal welfare. Ultimately the problem is larger than just deciding when and where to farm certain flesh architect. We must understand the delicate balance of the oceans and marine wildlife and protect them from disruptions.