World Without Fish: A Book Review

Aimed at kids 9-12, World Without Fish combines a graphic novel, lovely watercolor illustrations, and clear explanations to show what’s happening to the oceans and what kids can do about it.

World Without Fish starts out simply, by explaining the complicated food web connecting the oceans and the land, as well as humans. That sounds contradictory, but author Mark Kurlansky does an excellent job breaking down the parts of the food web without dumbing it down for the kids. He also keeps it interesting, with every chapter ending with a portion of a graphic novel that sums up that chapter’s lessons.

Development of Fisheries

Kurlansky has written several books combining history and food, including Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World and Food of the Younger Land. He uses the same approach here with similar good effects.

He traces the history of fishing through the centuries, pointing out what worked and why. For instance, the first complaints about bottom trawling (that we know of) date from 1376 and covered the same complaints we have today.

Overfishing and Sustainable Fisheries

Having examined how we got from individuals pulling in enough fish for their family for a single day to engine-powered trawlers that pull in millions of tons of fish each day, Kurlansky turns to sustainable methods that could be employed today.

He looks at the economics of sustainable fisheries, as well as the environmental impact of each method of sustainable fishing.

Why Not Just Stop Fishing?

Kurlansky addresses this question. Besides the economic damage it would cause coastal communities, stopping fishing altogether would simply not work. Fish aren’t disappearing just because of fishing practices.

Pollution from the land gets into the sea and moves up through the food chain to the fish people like the most. He goes into detail on several pollutants, like PCBs, chromium, and mercury, following them from industrial processes to our every day lives and on into the ocean.

Climate change is also affecting fish stocks. Many fish reproduce based on temperature and, in some cases, salinity, both of which are already changing as a result of global warming.

What Can the Kids Do?

The last chapter has concrete ideas on how kids can get involved. A list of environmental organizations and the Monterey Bay seafood list is included in the resource section.

World Without Fish manages to sustain a kid’s interest in the topics of overfishing, sustainable fisheries, and ocean pollution. It’s also a good primer for adults. For only $5.31, it’s an excellent deal.

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About the Author

Heather Carr loves food, politics, and innovative ways to make the world a better place. She counts Jacques Pepin and Speed Racer among her inspirations. You can find her on Facebook or .