Credit: Frank Stockton

World Without Fish

by Mark Kurlansky [Author], Frank Stockton [Illustrator]

Review by C.F. Foster

Mark Kurlansky is out to save the world.

The critically acclaimed author of “Cod,” “The Big Oyster, “Salt” and “Salmon” addresses the decline of our oceans and its inhabitants by writing a manifesto for change for the only group who can do anything about it, the next generation – our children.

This is dystopian non-fiction at its best. Imaginatively illustrated by Frank Stockton, the book gets its message across by using typographical techniques to highlight the dire warnings of environmental disaster and a call to action.

“MOST STORIES ABOUT THE DESTRUCTION OF THE PLANET INVOLVE A VILLAIN WITH AN EVIL PLOT. BUT THIS STORY OF HOW THE EARTH COULD BE DESTROYED BY WELL-MEANING PEOPLE WHO FAIL TO SOLVE A PROBLEM SIMPLY BECAUSE THEIR CALCULATIONS ARE WRONG.”


This introduction, designed with large white block letters on a black background, takes a whole page. The underlined section is larger and in red. 


Click on cover.

Interspersed throughout is an 11-page graphic novel that reinforces Kurlansky’s message: “Most of the fish we commonly eat, most of the fish we know, could be gone in the next fifty years.”

Kurlansky was a commercial fisherman before he became a student of bioecology, and he uses his acquired expertise to expose “the three main culprits in the devastation of the world’s oceans: overfishing, pollution and climate change.” His explanation of the rapid demise of the orange roughy, once a popular fish to eat, is profound.

A word of warning: If you buy this book for your child, expect a change. Kurlansky ends with a demanding pied-piperish call for action: “WHAT CAN WE DO ABOUT THIS?” From eating responsibly (they may never touch fish sticks again) and insisting that everyone buy the “right kind” of seafood, to organizing a picket line at a local market or restaurant or beginning an organization to save the oceans, they will become activists in some form.

As Kurlansky says, they have to.

“Saving the Planet takes a lot of work. But what could be more worthwhile? … THE SURVIVAL OF NOT ONLY THE OCEANS BUT OF OUR WORLD IS AT STAKE.

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