Discussion Guide 

1. In his introduction, Greenberg posits a question central to the book: "Must we eliminate all wildness from the sea and replace it with some kind of human controlled system, or can wildness be understood and managed well enough to keep humanity and the marine world in balance?" (12). What answer does Greenberg come to in Four Fish? Why is the question difficult to answer, and what sorts of issues arise in attempting to answer it?

2. One of Greenberg's primary concerns in the book is the good, the bad, and the ugly of fish farming. Based on the book, what path does Greenberg believe we should follow with regard to fish farming? What are the strengths and weaknesses of his list of desirable or essential qualities of farmed fish (89-93):

      • Hardy
      • Endowed with an inborn liking for man
      • Comfort-loving
      • Able to breed freely
      • Needful of only a minimal amount of tending

Does this list of qualities disregard the desire to eat fish that appeal to the palate or that have a cultural or regional history of being traditional seafood? How much should we value practicality versus taste or cultural tradition and preference?

3.  In "Salmon," Greenberg stresses the cultural connection of the aboriginal peoples of Alaska to salmon. This traditional attachment to salmon complicated by the fact that Native Alaskan peoples want to harvest salmon not only for their subsistence but also for sale and profit. How do we balance the needs of culture and tradition with the need to protect wild stocks of fish species like salmon? How does this debate compare to that concerning cultures—including American Indians of the Pacific Northwest—that traditionally have hunted and eaten whale?

4. In much of Four Fish, Greenberg mulls the problems and opportunities garnered through selective breeding, scientific manipulation of the breeding process, and even genetic manipulation of fish stock or fish feed. Is this sort of manipulation of fish stock ever appropriate? If so, when? What limits, if any, should be placed on our manipulation of fish, their growth environments, and what they eat?

5.  What effort should be expended to maintain a wild fish stock in its native space? If the genetic strain of a particular fish stock is maintained only as a farmed species, has it truly been saved? How do we balance the need for wild fish stock versus the need to feed the planet?

6.  Greenberg argues that he chooses his four fish because they are "coming to dominate the modern seafood market, ... marking four discrete steps humanity has taken in attempting to master the sea" (10). Does Greenberg leave out any important fish species, in your opinion? For instance, should he consider the impact of invasive fish species like Asian carp or lionfish? What aspects of the discussion does he leave out of his book?

7.  The final scene of the book depicts Greenberg fishing for bluefish with his daughter. In the end, his daughter releases a caught bluefish and asks him, "Will it live?" and Greenberg answers, "Yes, I think it will" (261). Despite the dire problems Greenberg spells out in Four Fish, he seems to end the book on an optimistic note. Do you share his optimism? Why or why not? hat specifically—within the book or in your own experience—gives you cause for your opinion?

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