The Omega Principle, Seafood and the Quest for a Long Life and a Healthier Planet - Review


Paul Greenberg, a New York City writer and journalist, who has written books about fish before, takes the reader on a journey around much of the world to explore the health benefits of Omega-3 Fatty Acids in The Omega Principle. Greenberg focuses on the subject of Omega-3 Fatty Acids and sees where it takes him. Onto many subjects and places in this trip to validate the enthusiasm the compound brings. Omega-3 Fatty Acids, found in fish but also in some nuts, is trumpeted as a medical remedy and cure helping our hearts and our minds. The enthusiasm over the find rivals that of other miracle drugs, but there are those who doubt whether it is a valid medicine. There are many though who swear by it, and Greenberg follows its use even into ancient times. He is a convert here, and fish consumer and promoter, but also an inquiring mind with great prose and refreshing use of phrases and language. Eating Omega-3 Fatty Acids maybe can be a bit of a cure all for some of our present environmental and public health catastrophe, but fish are also on the decline. A Mediterranean Diet with more fish is recommended by Greenberg who sees it also as a remedy for some of the ails of middle age. 

Greenberg also thinks it would be better for the planet if more people eat fish. It turns out that it takes much less energy and resources to produce fish than land based meats. Cows, releasing methane, are making climate change worse. Chickens could be treated better. Much of marine substances like bones and unwanted fish are ground up to produce substances that useful for Agriculture like animal feed and soil nutrients, with much protein and biomass lost in the process. Large scale agriculture has also released some pollution into the environment. 


There are many subjects explored here, but there are also solutions suggested that might have associated problems, but could save the fish who have had mis management under our watch. The author in his explorations finds out that we can grow oceanic algae and harvest phytoplankton instead (both contain Omega-3). This would involve change, but there are those who are already pursuing those options around the globe. Fishery stocks meanwhile have been depleted around the world with us fishing down the food chain and onto smaller fish. In some places the fish populations have been decimated and have not returned. 


Many people are not going to give up eating fish, but most knowing of the efforts of The Sustainable Seafood Movement will choose not to eat endangered fish. Greenberg is a realist in this knowing it is a bit crass to included recipes in books like these, many of these marine conservation books do, but he suggests for people to be more mindful, and knows that the people will be eating fish anyway. This book, despite it’s concern for the ocean, does not focus on related efforts like The Sustainable Seafood Movement, but maybe next time or look for it instead on the web.


The Omega Principle is an interesting memoir of sorts and travelogue which will get people to think about the fish they are eating. Saving fish for some might be a lost cause: there are actually vegetarians or pescatarians who only eat fish; but irresponsible consumption has led to the demise of the oceanic ecological balance. One though could be a Non Piscavore, a term coined by myself in Ocean Beach Diary (2018) to identify individuals and efforts to not eat fish at all. It is not fair to say that people are eating fish because they are endangered, but it is fair to say that fish have become endangered and we need to refrain from eating certain things. Such is implied here. There is not that much difference between telling people what to do instead of telling people what they are doing in this. Greenberg attempts to take a conscientious view, even sometimes for the fish, but maybe it is not a completely lost battle with everyone. One might have more concern for the fish if they got a membership at an aquarium or went ocean diving, instead of unknowingly going to a sea food restaurant.   


Greenberg, Paul. The Omega Principle, Seafood and the Quest for a Long Life and a Healthier Planet. New York: Penguin Press, 2018. 282 pp.. ISBN 978-1-59420-634-4   $27.00