In his first book The Devil's Picnic, writer Taras Grescoe travelled the world researching and eating nine different foods that, for one reason or another, were forbidden. In Bottom Feeder: How To Eat Ethically In A World Of Vanishing Seafood, Grescoe looks at the state of ten different fish and their fisheries from around the world, how humans have become so good at fishing that we threaten to wipe out any species we find palatable, and ends with looking at ways we can save those fisheries from extinction.
"Fishermen are hunters," he said. "Some people would even say they are predators. I'd add that they are lords, and probably among the last adventurers of daily life. They belong to the economy of the hunt, which goes back millenia. Except that three thousand years ago there were no echo sounders and GPS systems; obviously with all this technological sophistication, the fish have a little trouble escaping. The difference between a fisherman and a farmer is that a fisherman has never sown a fish in the water. He's not responsible for the paternity of what he's caught. Fishermen are always subject to what I call the lottery-day syndrome, the hope that with the next set of the net they'll haul up the jackpot."
Whale was not what I expected. I had imagined myself chewing a hunk of gummy blubber, but the cut was lean, and the taste was closer to rare bloody beef than fish. Whale was dense meat, reminiscent of venison, but with a slight aftertaste of liver. Frankly, though, it was nothing special -- tuna tartare was tastier -- and mine was still a little frozen in the middle.As I chewed, I found I was already trying to rationalize my meal. After all, compared to ordering overfished bluefin, the caviar from sturgeon, or any of the endangered delicacies served in Michelin-starred restaurants of the West every night of the week, ordering minke whale from the vast stocks in Japan is no more than a minor transgression. Surely it is a venial rather than a mortal sin, the moral equivalent of buying a second-hand fur coat.But I failed to convince myself. Pushing the plate away, I wondered if hell has a special media room for the overly curious writer.