The Last Fish Tale
By Mark Kurlansky
Published by Ballantine Books
Copyright © 2008
“The Last Fish Tale” by Mark Kurlansky is subtitled: “The Fate of the Atlantic and Survival in Gloucester, America’s Oldest Fishing Port and Most Original Town.” I don’t know if Gloucester is America’s most original town, or even New England’s most original town, but it certainly is interesting.
Kurlansky provides us with a brief history of the Gloucester, a self reliant town built on the lives of fish and men. Both of which were treated as an unending commodity. He recounts the early days of fishing off of Gloucester and the North Atlantic and the toll the sea took in the lives of fisherman, and how it has shaped the people that live there. Certainly fishermen are a rare bread, one that I can only read about and marvel at.
This town, its very lifeblood entangled with that of the sea, has been in a constant struggle with technology and tourism. As unwise fishing practices have depleted the fish stock people have begun to turn to tourism, but from the fisherman’s point of view tourism with its seaside hotels, restaurants, and attractions ruin the fishing community. Once the seaside is given up, it is too hard to get it back.
While I sympathize with the plight of the fisherman, I still walk away from the book wanting those very fishermen to take some of the blame for the destruction of the fish stock which they now so desperately need. They sound like lumberjacks, who after cutting down all the trees, cry because they don’t have a job anymore.
Kurlansky succinctly chronicles the ongoing struggles of the American fisherman in a fashion that is very easy to read, yet maybe still hard for the non-fisherman like me to understand. But, it is an interesting read that mingles sea stories and recipes with history and a little science.