The Secret Life of Lobsters

The Secret Life of Lobsters by Trevor Corson is fitting follow-up to Mike Kurlansky’s Cod. The decline of the once-dominant predator fish opened an ecological niche for their crustacean prey, resulting in a boom in the population of lobsters. Kurlansky tells a tragic tale of the decline by overfishing of the Atlantic cultural and economic staple, which has not recovered even now. Corson tells a more optimistic story – how the Maine lobstering community banded together over the decades to uphold practices that preserve the breeding population and sustain the fishing community along with their catch.

The Secret Life of Lobsters combines detective stories of scientific research uncovering bizarre details of the lobster life cycle, and dramatic struggles among fisherman and scientists about the state of the lobster population. Over time, independent biologists built relationships with fishermen, learning from their day-to-day knowledge, engaging astute fishermen in data collection, countering assessments of government scientists further from the fish, and becoming a force in policy decisions about the fishery.

A depressing share of environmental histories tell stories of the human overexploitation of resources, and the decline and risk to human populations and cultures when the resources are depleted. The Secret Life of Lobsters tells a more optimistic story of responsible stewardship bolstered by science. I recommend the book, wish luck to the lobster fishery, and hope our civilization can do more like this.

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