"This book paints a good picture of the politics of the fishing industry. The story is shocking and sad…A must-read for all New Englanders who want to preserve our unique communities and way of life. It is a fisherman's story of struggle and hopefully survival." —The Fisherman's Call

"Exhaustively reported and powerfully written" —National Fisherman

"The book is thought-provoking and packed with details about fishermen, fishing techniques, regulations, fisheries management, public hearings, statistics and the business of buying and selling fish."—The Patriot Ledger

"...a heartfelt and thorough examination of the complex scientific, environmental and economic issues arising from commercial fishing."—Valley News"

An in-depth view of the processing and distribution centers, as well as the seafood restaurants that purchase the product of the fisherman's labor. Fishermen, scientists, environmentalists will appreciate the model for sustainable future advocated by the author." —Northeastern



Vanishing Species is available
Barnes & Nobles
and independent booksellers

In the Author's Own Words…

"It is the story of a way of life that is disappearing as you read these pages. It is the story of Charlie, Mike, Steve, Jim and Bobby…of Lois, Jody, Irene and Sandy…"

"The small fisherman is disappearing due to government intervention. And that is something we should acknowledge. As a matter of national morality, we should at least inquire about the relationship between that purporting to be the common good and those it displaces. By creating a vehicle for the fishermen's stories, perhaps 'Vanishing Species' can help prevent a part
of our history from disappearing without our even understanding what we have lost."

vanishing speciesVANISHING SPECIES:
Saving the Fish,
Sacrificing the Fisherman

by Susan Playfair

The story of the ongoing debate between the
New England communities of fishermen, federal
regulators, scientists and environmentalists.

Based in large part on interviews with a wide
range of people—fishermen and their families,
restaurant managers, environmentalists,
fisheries scientists, politicians, and government
officials—Vanishing Species offers a series of
unforgettable portraits of people who are
involved in the struggle to find a way to
support sustainable fishing and the
communities that rely on it.

Vanishing Species chronicles the fate of groundfishing in New England waters since the Sustainable Fisheries Act (SFA) was enacted in 1996, causing increasingly strict regulations to be placed on the harvesting of fourteen species of edible fish.

The SFA mandates that within a ten-year period, the stocks of these fish were to be brought up to levels prescribed by the government. To achieve this goal, strict regulations were put in place to limit net size, how many fish were caught, and the number of days fishermen could spend at sea. The SFA and regulations like it govern how, when, and where fishermen may fish.

Since its inception, the SFA has been a fulcrum for escalating tensions between environmentalists, who argue that the mandates of the SFA are being ignored, and fishermen and their families, whose existence has come to depend on how government employees and a federal judge interpret the SFA.

Although some scientists and environmentalists believe the fish stocks remain at levels too low to sustain further harvesting, many fishermen believe that the fish stocks are rising and that the government’s means of measuring them is flawed. At the heart of the conflict is the survival of both the fish and the New England fishing communities.

Playfair’s compelling narrative brings the reader face-to-face with all aspects of this controversy. She examines the day-to-day business of groundfishing prior to the enactment of regulations, as well as the much-debated issue of farming fish through aquaculture as an alternative to harvesting fish from the sea.

She asks how fish stocks fell so low that they became endangered, and she questions whether the fishermen are really at fault or simply are scapegoats for a larger problem.

Playfair takes the reader onboard boats with different types of fishing gear; on voyages with scientists and fishermen seeking an equitable way to allow New England fishermen to fish while maintaining the numbers of groundfish needed in order for the populations to spawn and grow; and into seafood restaurants where demand remains high and fresh fish are treated with the respect they deserve.

If we lose the fisherman, Playfair reminds us, we lose our access to the fresh fish we now take for granted. The alternative may be a nomadic factory trawler—destructive to the environment, wasteful of the resource, and a sap to the soul of small coastal communities.