The Four Fish I Eat Even After Watching Seaspiracy

I wrote the book “Four Fish” but now I eat a different four.

Paul Greenberg
5 min readJan 16, 2023

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Photos by Ajeet Mestry on Unsplash

Seaspiracy, the buzzy, frenetic, slick, sloppy, confused and gripping documentary that premiered on Netflix in 2021, is often wrong but mostly right. Led by Ali Tabrizi, and produced by the maker of Cowspiracy, Kip Andersen, the film takes you on a bumpy ride with pit stops at every imaginable ocean horror: from the slaughtered dolphins of Taiji in Japan to the sea slaves of the South China Sea, north to the fetid corpses of disease-stricken Scottish farmed salmon and out into the plastic-strewn blue of the great Pacific garbage patch. It then dumps you at the side of the road, kicks you in the ribs and shouts: “And, remember — stop eating fish!”

There is merit in keeping a toe in the water. We already befoul our oceans at a tremendous level. Were we to cut our food relationship with the seas entirely, I fear we would befoul them even more

Not surprisingly, many fishers, conservationists and fisheries scientists feel similarly assaulted. Indignant posts abound from nonprofits to fisher’s associations asserting that, contrary to the film’s claims, sustainable fishing is possible, and that we can, if we’re careful, keep eating fish.

Many others outside the fish echo chamber have told me that after watching Seaspiracy they will no longer eat fish. And you know what? I mostly agree with them. Humanity removes 80–90 million tons of wildlife from the oceans every year (the equivalent of the human weight of China). We call it “seafood” to feel OK about that appalling deduction. Of course, there are communities in the developing world that rely on local seafood as their primary source of protein. Please, let them have it. But for those of us who are lucky enough to have the power of choice over our diets, a move toward plant-centred eating is the only justifiable decision. Seafood should never have grown into the vast, global concern it has become. We need to return it to its artisan, community-based roots, and we need to find a path forward to aid that transition.

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Paul Greenberg

New York Times bestselling author of Four Fish as well as The Climate Diet and Goodbye Phone, Hello World paulgreenberg.org