Fish – The Perfect Protein

The Perfect Protein: The Fish Lover’s Guide to Saving the Oceans and Feeding the World by Andy Sharpless, Suzannah Evans

 It’s rare that I sit down and read a book of 270 pages in just over one sitting. It’s even more remarkable that former President Bill Clinton takes time out to write a compelling forward to a book on fisheries.  But, this book provides a clear, compelling and readable case for protecting our Oceans and how to do it.

 Why Protect Our Oceans

 Andy Sharpless, Oceana’s CEO, gives two good reasons why we should be interested in growing fish stocks.

 Growing Populations Need Protein

First, the world’s population of 7 billion today is likely to grow to 9 billion by 2050. We will need more a lot lore protein to feed the 2 billion people.

We can feed them healthy wild seafood – and there is no reason why our oceans would not sustain levels needed – or we will have to find that protein from meat.

 Pigs & Cows Are Not The Alternative

Now, we can feed people from pigs, cows, or other forms of meat. I don’t eat meat but I accept that a lot of people do and will continue to do so. But it’s clear that we don’t have enough land to grow the soy and corn that is used to feed the pigs and corn. And, we won’t have enough land and clean water to grow more crops to feed the pigs and cows, let alone treat the waste.

As Sharpless puts it “More than half of the world’s crop yields—mainly corn, rice, wheat, and soybeans—are used to feed livestock, not people. And most of the meat from the livestock is sold to people.”

  How To Feed The World?

Secondly, wild caught fish could easily be a healthy and sustainable resource that could be part of billions of peoples main source of animal protein.

 Short Term Pain?

 Returning fish stocks is not going be painless. But, the long-term demise of fish stocks and the jobs they support has been a painful in many countries.

For too long, we have been drawing down from the principal in the bank account.  The remarkable thing about fish,is that if we let them re-build for a few years, we can start living off the interest of the principal and not the principal. Indeed, it could be feasible that we started living off the interest from the interest of the principle.

And, that turn around can be as short as 5 to 10 years.

 What is the Recipe for Success?

 This book provides a checklist that any fisheries minister could remember – even at 2 am when negotiating quotas:

1.Protect the habitats that foster ocean life.

2. Reduce the scourge of bycatch.

3. Set quotas based on science, not the fishing industry’s bottom line.
And, I would add another:


4. Enforce the rules

I added point 4 because there is often  too little enforcement in many fisheries.


80/20 Fisheries Management

This is not as challenging as it first seems.

There are around 196 countries in the world today. 44 of them are landlocked. Luxembourg and Nepal don’t have too much interest in fisheries.

25 countries control 76% of the world’s costal waters. Indeed 10 countires control 51%. These 10 countries control half of the world’s coasts – where 99% of the fish live:

1.United States,



4. Russia

5. New Zealand

6. Indonesia

7. Canada

8.United Kingdom


  1. 10.  Chile.

You’ll find similar weightings for those countries fleets doing the catching. 25 countries fleet catch 75% of all wild caught fish and the top 10 catch 53%.  The top 10 fishing countries:



3.United States







10. Denmark

Only a few of those top 10 coastal or catching countries need to get things right for big things to change.


And, whilst it may take a long time to restore the world’s Oceans to their former bounty, there is nothing to stop stocks from increasing by 40% in the near future. Now, that will go a long way to providing food for billions, good jobs for many, and a healthy and vibrant life in the Oceans.