Book rec: Cod, by Mark Kurlansky

Whoops, I missed Fishy Friday last week. So much for establishing a regular routine. In my defence, I was not quite compos mentis, having had to wake up at 3.30am two days running in the name of Science. On the second day (Friday), the weather had other ideas so the go-go-Lucozade stash went untouched and I ended up spending half the day at the dentist: yay!

So anyway. This week’s #fishyfriday will be short and sweet: I’m going to recommend a really good book. Not as “a good book on fisheries” or a “topically pertinent treatment of environmental management” or any of that (although both are true); Mark Kurlansky’s Cod: a biography of the fish that changed the world is, simply, a cracking read.

At once a history of man’s appetite for and pursuit of cod, a collection of recipes and insight into some of the science and politics behind fisheries management, it sort of encapsulates, for me, why fisheries is such an interesting area. Although scientific method and an ecosystem approach is a big deal when you start to try and grapple with this stuff, you forget the human element at your peril. Fisheries management is really all about us; we’re the problem and the solution, the frustration and the fascination – and when I say “us”, I mean it: not only fishermen, scientists, politicians, anyone who eats fish, or visits the coast, or enjoys the marine environment, or simply lives or works in a building of some sort (likely to be built using aggregates sourced at least in part from the marine environment).

Or as H Thomas Henry Huxley (in one of the book’s opening quotes), more succinctly puts it:

The question of questions for mankind – the problem which underlies all others, and is more deeply interesting than any other – is the ascertainment of the place which man occupies in nature and of his relations to the universe of things.

Yeah. What he said.

Originally published in 1997, but no less topical or relevant fifteen years on, Cod is fascinating and a compelling read. If you haven’t read it, I thoroughly recommend it – if you have, what did you think?

Buy it at Amazon UK

The author’s website

Listing on Good Reads (with full reviews of the book)


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