Salmon: A Fish, the Earth, and the History of Their Common Fate


Product Details

$30.00  $27.90
Publish Date
7.5 X 8.8 X 1.6 inches | 2.75 pounds

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About the Author

Mark Kurlansky is the New York Times bestselling author of Havana, Cod, Salt, Paper, The Basque History of the World, 1968, and The Big Oyster, among other titles. He has received the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, Bon Appetit's Food Writer of the Year Award, the James Beard Award, and the Glenfiddich Award. His articles have appeared in a wide variety of newspapers and magazines, including The International Herald Tribune, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Miami Herald, The Chicago Tribune, The Los Angeles Times, Time Magazine, Partisan Review, Harper's, The New York Times Sunday Magazine, Audubon Magazine, Food & Wine, Gourmet, Bon Appetit, and Parade. He lives in New York City.


"Mark Kurlansky's Salmon makes the species an ecological poster child and a microcosm of the environmental challenges we face." -Foreword Reviews
"In championing a critically important part of the natural world, Kurlansky sounds an urgent alarm that commands our attention." -Kirkus Reviews
Mark Kurlansky's Salmon makes the species an ecological poster child and a microcosm of the environmental challenges we face. More than an environmental book about overfishing, the text includes a comprehensive natural and cultural history about how the salmon impacts the world. A salmon may be: a food source, a commodity, a symptom of a troubled planet, a dweller in streams, an ocean swimmer, or each of these and more. Kurlansky proves that resilient salmon have impacted the world for generations, though the species now faces an uncertain future because of compromised habitats and humanity's impact. Today's salmon population decline is striking when compared to historical data showing that some rivers used to boast millions of the fish. The book traces how that change came about, including images of rivers teeming with fish with sawdust-choked gills, rivers dammed to them, and the start up of salmon fisheries and farms. Concern for salmon is reflected in voices from the past speaking to the fish's value and the need to protect it, including from Charles Darwin and Charles Dickens. The result is a fascinating mosaic of history and science, embellished by remarkable illustrations that are a riot of fins and color, ranging from closeup natural shots to various landscapes and historical illustrations. The real beauty of the book is in its subtle transformation of a species often thought of in terms of food into one that needs to be considered with care and even championed. Its historical aspects are not easier to read once these connections are made. And while it will take a lot to change the calculus of population decline, Salmon shows that, in many ways, the salmon's fate might also be our own. JEREMIAH ROOD (November / December 2019) -- Foreword--Foreword Magazine
Having written about milk, salt, oysters, and frozen food, Kurlansky (Milk!: A 10,000-Year Food Fracas, 2018, etc.) turns his pen to an iconic fish on the brink of extinction."How many species do we lose when we lose a salmon?" asks the author toward the end of this handsomely illustrated work of natural history and environmental advocacy. The answer is that we do not know for certain, but the salmon is part of a chain of life that ranges from tiny insects to large mammals and birds. Every species, then, unlocks the door to many other species, and allowing any species to diminish is to threaten the whole web of life. So it is with the salmon. Kurlansky covers all the bases, from life cycle and reproductive history to the fact that the salmon is particularly vulnerable precisely because it spends part of its life in salt water, part in fresh water. The author observes that ideal salmon habitat includes rivers that run clear and clean and that are undammed, which are increasingly rare except in very remote places such as the Kamchatka Peninsula of Russia, which may turn out to be where salmon make their last stand. Certainly it won't be on the Columbia River, where Lewis and Clark saw a horizon of flashing fins two centuries ago, whereas "by 1975, a total of 14 dams were blocking the main Columbia River, 13 were on the Snake [River]," numbers that don't begin to take into account the thousands of smaller dams along the tributaries. Kurlansky offers a dauntingly long list of things that need to happen if the salmon is to be saved, ranging from dismantling dams to checking climate change, restoring forests and apex predators, ending the use of pesticides, and removing homes and roads from riverbanks in favor of galleries of trees. "If we can save the planet," he writes, "the salmon will be all right." And if not, we must conclude, not.In championing a critically important part of the natural world, Kurlansky sounds an urgent alarm that commands our attention.--Kirkus
"Mark Kurlansky is the maestro of metaphor. . . . In his new book, Salmon: A Fish, the Earth, and the History of Their Common Fate, Kurlansky does something similar -- but, this time, also slightly different. As anybody who has bought king salmon at $30 a pound can tell you, salmon are not ordinary. They are glamorous. And as Kurlanksy demonstrates, the light they cast on the 21st century Earth is less wondrous than worrisome." -- San Francisco Chronicle
"In more than 40 years of writing, this is the scariest thing I've ever learned. The oceans, especially the Northern Atlantic, are losing the ability to provide food. If the oceans can no longer feed the things that are supposed to live in it, then we're sunk." - Mark Kurlansky, from an interview on Maine Public Radio
It is a beautiful book, spangled throughout with stunning color photographs of a lovely fish, of pristine streams and landscapes. It's a coffee-table book shrunk to shelf-size, but the images are pertinent and illuminating, and there is nothing throwaway about the text that surrounds them or about the recipes for salmon dishes from all over the world and past centuries." -- Wall Street Journal