Facts about the virtues of eating fish can be slippery. On the one hand, fish provide protein and omega-3 fatty acids, the substance in fish oil supplements, which is thought to boost cognitive health. Plus, unlike cows, fish don't belch vast amounts of the greenhouse gas methane into the air. So, fish should be good for your health and the environment. But the science of omega-3 benefits is far from settled, and as fish farming grows to keep up with global demand, the industry is raising new questions about environmental sustainability.
New York Times bestselling author and avid fisherman Paul Greenberg wanted to learn more about how eating fish can change human health and the world's marine environments. He ate fish every day for a year to see how it would affect his health and traveled around the world to learn more about the challenges of fish farming. His experience is captured in a FRONTLINE documentary called The Fish on My Plate airing Tuesday. (You can also watch it online.)
We watched the film and talked with Greenberg about what he learned while making this documentary. The conversation is edited for clarity and concision.
As a fisherman who enjoys catching food from the wild, do you think we need fish farming?
If everyone's going to be a vegan, no, we don't need fish farming. If we want to have animal protein in our lives, then yes, I think we do need it. People often compare wild fish to farmed fish, but what we should really be doing is comparing fish to other forms of protein. Because things like beef really are a tremendous burden on the planet in terms of resources, we're never going to get to the place where everybody on the planet can eat beef. But I do think we'll get to a place where everybody can eat mussels.