Kings of Their Own Ocean: Tuna, Obsession, and the Future of Our Seas (Hardcover)
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This is a tale of human obsession, one intrepid tuna, the dedicated fisherman who caught and set her free, the promises and limits of ocean science, and the big truth of how our insatiable appetite for bluefin transformed a cottage industry into a global dilemma.
In 2004, an enigmatic charter captain named Al Anderson caught and marked one Atlantic bluefin tuna off New England’s coast with a plastic fish tag. Fourteen years later that fish—dubbed Amelia for her ocean-spanning journeys—died in a Mediterranean fish trap, sparking Karen Pinchin’s riveting investigation into the marvels, struggles, and prehistoric legacy of this remarkable species.
Over his fishing career Al marked more than sixty thousand fish with plastic tags, an obsession that made him nearly as many enemies as it did friends. His quest landed him in the crossfire of an ongoing fight between a booming bluefin tuna industry and desperate conservation efforts, a conflict that is once again heating up as overfishing and climate change threaten the fish’s fate.
Kings of Their Own Ocean is an urgent investigation that combines science, business, crime, and environmental justice. As Pinchin writes, “as a global community, we are collectively only ever a few terrible choices away from wiping out any ocean species.” Through her exclusive access and interdisciplinary, mesmerizing lens, readers will join her on boats and docks as she visits tuna hot spots and scientists from Portugal to Japan, New Jersey to Nova Scotia, and glimpse, as the author does, rays of dazzling hope for the future of our oceans.
One of The Globe and Mail's Best Books of 2023
One of Literary Hub's "Best Reviewed Books of the Week"
One of Science Friday's 2023 Science Books
“Karen Pinchin’s “Kings of Their Own Ocean” gives us a new look at the beauty and the importance of an ancient fish…The book also asks where we should go from here.”—The New Yorker
“Ms. Pinchin writes acutely about the codependence between fisheries science and politics…It makes for good storytelling, as well as a point of entry into Ms. Pinchin’s deft portraits.”—Wall Street Journal
"An engaging and fascinating tale of a natural struggle that will help determine the future of the oceans."—Kirkus, *starred review*
"Karen Pinchin has written a moving, vivid, often heart-pounding narrative of the love, greed and dramas surrounding the lives and deaths of a fish upon whom human fortunes rise and fall—each an individual animal who surely loves his or her life as much as we love ours. Kings of Their Own Ocean is a moving and ultimately hopeful story, reminding us that if we are honest and we are wise, we still may save the denizens of our imperiled seas."—Sy Montgomery, New York Times bestselling author of National Book Award finalist The Soul of an Octopus
“Pinchin has written pathos, poetry and adrenaline into a story about one of the most famed and endangered sea creatures on the planet: the bluefin tuna. Not easy to get the science right while making the reporting riveting. But she did. And the candor in the personal back story to this lifelong interest in tuna and the ocean also gives the book just the right amount of feel as a memoir. Well worth the read.”—Ian Urbina, nationally bestselling author of The Outlaw Ocean
"I love this book. From its first pages, Kings of Their Own Ocean is scientific work steeped in beautiful prose. I felt transported as I read the early chapters, not only to the ocean floor but to working coastal communities shaped by Atlantic waters. And what a journey! This book is about so much more than the science of fisheries, although Pinchin covers that field engagingly in this deep dive into family, culture, and themes of progress. Through cinematic writing and deep research, Karen Pinchin immerses us in a unique story and perspective on what might otherwise be a dauntingly complicated subject."—Lyndsie Bourgon, author of Tree Thieves
“Awash in lyricism and anchored in science and history, Kings of Their Own Ocean submerges readers in the enthralling lives of Al Anderson and Amelia to explore the depths of the Atlantic bluefin tuna industry. Karen Pinchin embarks on an intrepid journey to follow bluefin around the world, ruminating on human greed which threatens to wipe out the fish, and others that share its ocean home. Eloquent and sobering, Pinchin uncovers the tenuous fate of the bluefin, and deftly explains why the choices we make about the ocean matter.”—Gloria Dickie, author of Eight Bears and a National Geographic Explorer
"In Kings of Their Own Ocean, Karen Pinchin has brought vigor and pathos to the human relationship with the inhabitants of our oceans—and what this complex relationship means for the future of the planet."—Alicia Kennedy, author of No Meat Required
“Strap in to your deck chairs and prepare to land the story of several lifetimes. In Kings of Their Own Ocean, a church launches a global seafood empire, researchers feud, the tuna leap, and most of all, fishermen and citizen scientists manage to save a vital species, armed only with their wits and a few plastic tags. Pinchin’s deep reporting and stunning prose ensure tuna will never taste the same.”—Lizzie Stark, author of Egg: A Dozen Ovatures
"Karen Pinchin's Kings of Their Own Ocean traces the fascinating story of Atlantic bluefin tuna from antiquity to the present. Vividly rendering not only the bluefin itself but also the interconnected lives of people obsessed with it, Pinchin lays out the stakes for the survival of this thrilling, magical species."—Andrea Pitzer, author of Icebound: Shipwrecked at the Edge of the World
“A book that I love…it’s so well told, the characters and the history of these people…and the history of how the oceans are managed. It’s so well done, it’s a great read. And it ends with a piece of good news, too.”—Chris Nuttall-Smith, food critic and bestselling author of Cook It Wild
"The descriptions of Amelia's undersea wanderings are where Pinchin's writing really comes alive, manifesting her passion for protecting all marine life.”—Booklist
“Pinchin provides a solid analysis of the far-reaching consequences of human action on marine life.”—Publishers Weekly
“Kings of Their Own Ocean enthralls, instructs and is a must-read for readers concerned about the future of our oceans and the creatures within them.”—BookPage
"Turns out a would-be biography of an Atlantic bluefin tuna can be riveting. Well, especially when you bring its unlikely two-time catcher into the mix and make it a story about the precarious state of conservation efforts." —The Globe and Mail
“Comprehensive…exhaustive and engaging.”—Boston Globe
“A cinematic triumph of narrative journalism…Come for the most vivid descriptions of fish I’ve ever read; stay for the perilous story of human obsession at the edge of scientific knowledge. Rendered with gorgeous, forensic precision, the book is a masterpiece of journalism and storytelling.”—Civil Eats
“This volume will take its rightful place among the top shelf tuna classics and is a must-read for all obsessed with bluefin tuna.” —National Fisherman
“Pinchin’s prose … calls to mind the likes of environmental greats Rachel Carson and John Vaillant... In Kings, Pinchin’s protagonist, Anderson, goes against the grain as the angler who makes a point of releasing his catches back into the ocean. Maybe that, too, is Pinchin’s mark: To leave you hooked for a spell, and then release you back into the world, both the same as you were and utterly different from before.”—The Coast
“The people in Kings of Their Own Ocean are portrayed in all their rich human complexity, a quality that sets this book apart from many of the other nonfiction works focused on a single fish species.”—Science
“Riveting…[Kings of their Own Ocean] isn’t just an ode to bluefin — it’s about humankind’s obsession with them, a fixation as old as our species.”—Undark
“A poignant and powerful look at a global industry bound to an ocean creature of incredible strength and beauty…Worth a read? Absolutely.”—The Epoch Times
“This decades-spanning tale of environmental justice presents the human side of tuna, as well as a look below the surface of the ocean at species very few of us truly understand but more of us should treasure.”—The Revelator, "5 Hot New Environmental Books"