Book Review: Eat Like A Fish by Bren Smith
To start your own sustainable seafood farm, you just need twenty acres of ocean, $20,000 (USD), and a boat. (Although that's really $28,500 CAD.) For this month's photo, I would like to do a book review on Bren Smith's Eat Like A Fish, published just this past year in 2019. This book is as much a self-biography as it is an educational manual on sustainable ocean farming. Born and raised in Newfoundland and starting off as a 14-year-old high school dropout, Smith spent over a decade as a commercial fisherman chasing dwindling fish all the way to the Bering Sea. Eventually, he was to become one of the most prominent restorative ocean farmers on the East Coast today. In-between that transformation, there was a long, winding journey. He meandered inland, studying for unrelated academic degrees, only to realize he belonged to the sea. He then headed to work at a salmon farm, only to feed "dank-smelling pellets ground from the meat of distant wild cousins of these imprisoned mutants." (pg 61) Disillusioned and in search for a truly sustainable way to farm the ocean, Smith eventually started an oyster farm in Connecticut, known as the The Thimble Island Ocean Farm. Surviving two hurricanes and an injury that sent him to the hospital with wood chips sticking into his face (plus a medication which caused an allergy to his own shellfish), Smith trudged on as any tried and true fisherman at heart would, and pioneered the idea of "3D ocean farming". This is a method of farming all areas of the ocean: oysters and mussels hanging on lines vertically in the water column, with clams at the bottom of the ocean floor, and seaweed at the top. The shellfish filters fifty gallons of water a day, removing nitrogen, and the seaweed absorbs five times more carbon than land-based plants. They don't need to be filtered, fed, or given freshwater, and the whole farm provides a home to many more species to live and feed from, rendering it the most sustainable and affordable type of farmed seafood available today. Smith's passion for both history and the ocean are uniquely intertwined and shines through in this book. He dives deep into the history of aquaculture, the rise of technology from World War II, and the lesser known history of kelp harvesting that dates back to 12,000 BC. At the end of each major section in the book, there is a small chapter that gives instructions on how to open your own sustainable seafood farm. I truly enjoyed Smith's writing style - it is raw, humble, and descriptive as much as it is informative and at times self-deprecating. There is a momentum and energy to his writing that kept me turning to the next page. My biggest inspiration from this book is that anybody can make a difference - you don't need to leave it to the industry giants to address climate change. He clearly outlines his philosophy of what restorative ocean farming should look like and the importance of seafood traceability. As a sweet finishing touch, Smith describes different types of seaweed and provides a few easy and tempting recipes, which now makes me on the hunt for some kelp too. Plus, I am 100% convinced that I need to start my own shellfish-seaweed farm, albeit lacking a boat and some good hard cash! If any of you have read or would end up reading this book as well, please feel free to share your thoughts and impressions! Thank you for reading my review. Happy Earth Day!