Gulf Wild – the first seafood brand in America to trace each fish from the sea to the table – emerged after grouper, the star of fried fish sandwiches, fell off menus due to overfishing. The brand was born when the government privatized the rights to fish to fix the problem. Through traceability, Gulf Wild has met burgeoning consumer demand for domestic, sustainable seafood, selling in boutique grocers and catapulting grouper from the hamburger bun to the white tablecloth.
But the property rights that saved grouper also shifted control of the fish from public to private, forever changing the relationship between wild seafood and the people that eat it.
Aboard fishing vessels from Alaska to Maine, inside restaurants of top chefs, and from the halls of Congress, in The Fish Market, journalist Lee van der Voo tells the story of the people and places left behind in this era of ocean privatization – a trend that now controls more than half of American seafood. Following seafood money from U.S. docks to Wall Street, she explains the methods that investors, equity firms, and seafood landlords have used to capture the upside of the sustainable seafood movement, and why many people believe in them. She also goes behind the scenes of the Slow Fish movement – among holdouts against privatization of the sea – to show why they argue consumers don't have to buy sustainability from Wall Street, or choose between the environment and their fisherman.
Lee van der Voo is an award-winning journalist who writes about sustainability, food, policy, and social justice. Her research has been funded by the Fund for Investigative Journalism as well as the Alicia Patterson Foundation Fellowship. On staff at InvestigateWest, the nonprofit journalism studio for the Pacific Northwest, her work has been featured in The New York Times, Reuters, USA Today, The Chicago Tribune, CNN, Slate, and High Country News. She lives in Portland, Oregon.
"Fascinating [...] a fast-paced, thorough account of the American sustainable seafood market's evolution over the past 25 years, touching on everything from the slow fish movement to how reality television shows such as Deadliest Catch have made the public aware of the dangers of crabbing during short, brutal seasons."
– Hakai Magazine
"Takes an in-depth and honest look at the implementation of individual fishing quotas in the United States within the context of global adoption [...] van der Voo is a journalist who does not shy away from the real story of catch shares – accolades as well as criticisms."
– National Fisherman
"Bold, important, engaging, and intimate, The Fish Market will be especially appealing to readers who connect with environmental problems through personalized accounts."
"What a great book! Journalist Lee van der Voo investigates the provenance of wild fish and the dismaying gentrification of the high seas, weaving the wonky details of politics and economics with big-hearted portraits of those who work the seas. The Fish Market is a fascinating addition to the literature of food."
– Kristin Ohlson, author of The Soil Will Save Us
"Everyone who eats seafood, is interested in the ocean, or just wants to know how our natural resources are divvied up needs to read The Fish Market [...] Van der Voo deftly weaves the stories of fishermen, fish mongers, and Wall Street with the orchestrated campaigns of the Charles Koch Foundation, the Walton Family Foundation, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and NOAA, and how they paid NGOs, scientists, and celebrity chefs to support their cause. You will never see seafood in the same light again."
– Kevin M. Bailey, marine scientist and author of Billion-Dollar Fish and The Western Flyer
"In The Fish Market, Lee van der Voo uses her gifts for storytelling and imbedded reporting to skillfully lay out the economic, environmental, and societal trade-offs of privatizing American commercial fishing. In a world where establishing sustainable seafood is essential, van der Voo paints a future that must balance the rights of the individual fisher with the more effective conservation practices of private enterprise. A timely page-turner of a book!"
– James McClintock, author of A Naturalist Goes Fishing