Author Paul Greenberg Speaks About the Loss of Local Seafood

March 2, 2015

Tim Lucas, 919-613-8084,

by Kati Moore (MEM ‘ 16)? Nicholas School Communications Student Assistant

DURHAM, N.C. – Last night, award-winning author Paul Greenberg spoke about his new book, “American Catch: The Fight for Our Local Seafood,” to a crowd of students, faculty, and professionals at the Griffith Film Theater in Duke’s Bryan University Center.

Greenberg focused on the disconnect between the seafood produced in United States and the seafood consumed here. “The United States controls more ocean than any other country, yet we export more than eighty percent of our fish,” he explained.

His talk highlighted just a few of the disparities in the U.S. seafood market: Ninety percent of the shrimp we eat is from abroad. Eighty percent of the two to three million pounds of Alaskan salmon caught every year is exported.  Half of the seafood we import is farmed, but almost all of the fish we export is wild.

Greenberg also discussed important habitats that were once ideal for fish but have since been degraded. He told how oysters were once an export product of New York City, and how organizations such as the Billion Oyster Project are working to restore oysters to New York Harbor.

The Cajun shrimp of the Mississippi Delta region have experienced similar losses, Greenberg explained. This area used to be an important part of freshwater shrimp habitat, but various development projects and re-engineering of the river have altered the ecosystem so drastically that few shrimp can be found there now.

Before the Industrial Revolution, Greenberg said, salmon were abundant in the rivers of his home state of Connecticut. The construction of more than 3,000 dams since then has greatly reduced salmon numbers.

Greenberg’s talk was well received by students. “I think his work strikes the perfect balance between writing a narrative and sharing a scientific message,” said Marianne Ferguson (MEM ’16), who studies Coastal Environmental Management.

The event was preceded by a reception featuring seafood prepared by Watts Grocery.

This talk was part of the Nicholas School of the Environment’s Ferguson Family Distinguished Lectureship in the Environment and Society series.  

The evening’s presentation began with an introduction by Dean Urban, professor of landscape ecology and senior associate dean at the Nicholas School. 

Urban introduced students Alex Bolton and Supriti Ghosh of DukeFish, the graduate student chapter of the American Fisheries Society. DukeFish, North Carolina Sea Grant, The NCSU Student Fisheries Society and Locals Seafood co-sponsored the event with the Nicholas School.

Greenberg’s talk was preceded by a short presentation by Chris McCaffity of Walking Fish, a community supported fishery in North Carolina that was developed by Nicholas School students working with fishermen in Carteret County, N.C.  McCaffity presented a short film titled “Working on the Water: A Community Approach to Sustainable Waterfronts” about Walking Fish’s role in developing a working waterfront in Carteret County.   

Dr. Xavier Basurto, assistant professor of sustainability science, introduced Greenberg.

Greenberg started by explaining the inspiration for his first book, “Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food,” which was published in 2010. This book was spawned, he said, by his realization that a few hundred years ago, all of our seafood was wild-caught, but now, almost everything is farmed.

For more information or to purchase “American Catch,” visit Greenberg's website.



NC Sea Grant:

NCSU Student Fisheries Society:

Locals Seafood:

Walking Fish:

Billion Oysters Project: