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July 6, 2014

United States

American Catch by Paul Greenberg



In a new book, America Catch: The Fight for Our Local Seafood, award-winning, fisheries author Paul Greenberg, use three species—salmon, oysters and shrimp—to explain why United States fisheries have declined.  He holds inexpensive shrimp imports from Asia as partially responsible for the decline in USA shrimp fisheries.


A review of America Catch in the Boston Globe newspaper says: “America has 94,000 miles of coast and 3.5 million miles of rivers, but 91 percent of our seafood is imported.  Greenberg laments ‘our nation’s broken relationship with its own ocean’ and urges us to ‘build a bridge back from the plate back to the estuary.’  This requires us to not just to eat local seafood.  It requires the establishment of a working relationship with salt marshes, oyster beds, the natural flow of waterfrom river to sea, and the integrity of the ocean floor.”


The book jacket on American Catch reports: “In 2005, the United States imported five billion pounds of seafood, nearly double what we imported twenty years earlier.  Asian-farmed shrimp—cheap, abundant, and a perfect vehicle for the frying and sauces Americans love—have flooded the American market.”



Excerpts from American Catch


“In the past century shrimp has gone from a sidebar curiosity sold mostly in ethnic markets to the very soul of our seafood economy. So thoroughly do shrimp dominate American seafood today that it is almost a menu category in and of itself—a type of seafood that people who generally don’t like fish all that much will eat with relish.  A decade ago shrimp surpassed canned tuna as the most popular seafood in the United States and now the average American eats more than four pounds of it a year—roughly equivalent to the USA per capita consumption of the next two most popular seafoods—tuna and salmon—combined.  If they didn’t eat shrimp, most Americans today wouldn’t eat any seafood at all.”


“The switch to shrimp isn’t just a random redirection in shopping patterns like choosing hamburgers over hot dogs.  It is a paradigm shift.  If oysters tell the story of the very first local seafood to disappear, shrimp tell the story of the unraveling of the entire American seafood economy.  Fifty years ago, 70 percent of our shrimp was wild and much of it hailed from the Gulf of Mexico.  Today 90 percent of our shrimp is farmed and imported, mostly from China, Thailand, Vietnam, India, Indonesia, and Ecuador.”


In his discussion of Penaeus vannamei, Greenberg says, “It was discovered by a Dr. Vanname in 1926 in a market in Panama and then lost to a pickling jar in the bowels of the American Museum of Natural History.  It was later described by a Miss Pearl Lee Boone and became known as Penaeus vannamei Boone (and later reclassified as Litopenaeus vannamei Boone).”



Mistakes in Greenberg’s Chapter on Shrimp


I lost faith in Greenberg’s arguments when in the short space of ten pages, I discovered the following factual errors.  No telling how many errors there were in the rest of this 306-page book.


Page–122: Writing about all shrimp, Greenberg says: “In nature shrimp are an annual crop, going from egg to young male and then changing sex to spawning female in less than a year.”  Actually only some species of coldwater shrimp change sex during their life cycle.  None of the shrimp species mentioned in this book change their sex as they mature.


Page 125: Writing about tiger shrimp, Greenberg says: “One of Fujinaga’s heirs, I. Chiu Liao in Taiwan, found that Litopenaeus monodon, or the giant tiger prawn, grew the fastest and took best to a kind of high-density form of production that became known as ‘intensive culture’.”  Actually when the penaeids were reclassified in 1997, Penaeus monodon was the only farmed species that got to keep its first name, its genus name.


Page–127-128: Writing about Penaeus vannamei, Greenberg says, “Rediscovered in the late 1980s, it was soon repurposed toward aquaculture.”  Actually P. vannamei was rediscovered by David Drennan in the early 1970s.


Page 128—Writing about the spread of the whitespot virus, Greenberg says, “Soon the dreaded disease was on the move. Within a few months whitespot had spread around the globe.”  Actually, the spread of whitespot took three years or more.


Page 131—Writing about biofloc technology, Greenberg says: They [the Thais] figured out ways to aerate their ponds and deal with the...ooze that accumulated on pond bottoms.  They arrived at what are called “biofioc systems”—means of biologically reprocessing wastes to limit and even eliminate the discharge of polluted water.”  Actually it was the United States and a shrimp farm in Belize that pioneered the development of biofloc technology.


Sources: 1. American Shrimp/The Fight for Our Local Seafood.  Paul Greenberg.  The Penquin Press/New York 2014.  2. The Boston Globe/Books.  Book Review American Catch  by Paul Greenberg.  Matthew Price (email  June 28, 2014.  3. Bob Rosenberry, Shrimp News International.  July 6, 2014.

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