280 pages, 33 b/w photos, 7 b/w illustrations
Alaska pollock is everywhere. If you're eating fish but you don't know what kind it is, it's almost certainly pollock. Prized for its generic fish taste, pollock masquerades as crab meat in California rolls and seafood salads and feeds millions as fish sticks in school cafeterias and Filet-O-Fish sandwiches at McDonald's. That ubiquity has made pollock the most lucrative fish harvest in America – the fishery in the United States alone has an annual value of over one billion dollars. But even as the money rolls in, pollock is in trouble: in the last few years, the pollock population has declined by more than half, and some scientists are predicting the fishery's eventual collapse.
In Billion-Dollar Fish, Kevin M. Bailey combines his years of firsthand pollock research with a remarkable talent for storytelling to offer the first natural history of Alaska pollock. Crucial to understanding the pollock fishery, he shows, is recognizing what aspects of its natural history make pollock so very desirable to fish, while at the same time making it resilient, yet highly vulnerable to overfishing. Bailey delves into the science, politics, and economics surrounding Alaska pollock in the Bering Sea, detailing the development of the fishery, the various political machinations that have led to its current management, and, perhaps most important, its impending demise. He approaches his subject from multiple angles, bringing in the perspectives of fishermen, politicians, environmentalists, and biologists, and drawing on revealing interviews with players who range from Greenpeace activists to fishing industry lawyers.
Seamlessly weaving the biology and ecology of pollock with the history and politics of the fishery, as well as Bailey's own often raucous tales about life at sea, Billion-Dollar Fish is a book for every person interested in the troubled relationship between fish and humans, from the depths of the sea to the dinner plate.
"Kevin M. Bailey's Billion-Dollar Fish captures the high-stakes international battles over the business and biology of Alaska pollock fishing, the most valuable food fishery in the world. Bailey's perspective is as a noncombatant giving scientific advice in a battle for money conducted on the battleground of the sea. Such battles have been and continue to be fought over many other species in all parts of the sea, for example, codfish, whales, tuna, and squid. This book provides an accessible and entertaining description of decades of hidden financial and scientific battles over a fish that most of us have eaten, unaware of this war."
- Tim D. Smith, author of Scaling Fisheries
Prologue: Fishing Lessons
1 Introduction: White Gold Fever
2 A Historical Background: From an Inexhaustible Ocean to the Three-Mile Limit
3 Fishing the High Seas: Japan and the Soviet Union Develop the Harvest of Pollock in the Bering Sea
4 Americanization! The Rush for White Gold and the Developing Fishery
5 An Empty Donut Hole: The Great Collapse of a North Pacific Pollock Stock
6 Viking Invasion: Norway’s Link to the Pollock Industry
7 A New Fish on the Block: Advancing Knowledge of Pollock Biology
8 A New Ocean: Changing Concepts of Ocean Production and Management of Fisheries
9 Factories of Doom: The Pollock Fishing Industry Clashes with the Environment
10 All in the Family: Olympic Fishing and Domestic Strife in the Industry
11 Bridge over Troubled Water: Tranquility after the American Fisheries Act
12 Alaska Pollock’s Challenging Future
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Kevin M. Bailey is a senior scientist at the Alaska Fisheries Science Center and affiliate professor at the University of Washington.