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Nature Fish

Kings of Their Own Ocean

Tuna, Obsession, and the Future of Our Seas

by (author) Karen Pinchin

Knopf Canada
Initial publish date
Jul 2023
Fish, Oceans & Seas, Food Industry
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Jul 2023
    List Price

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Winner of the Evelyn Richardson Non-Fiction Award • Winner of the Margaret and John Savage First Book Award for Non-Fiction • Shortlisted for the Kobo Emerging Writer Prize • Shortlisted for the 2023 Science Writers and Communicators of Canada Book Award
The marvelous tale of one fish, the fisherman who first caught her, and how our insatiable appetite for bluefin tuna turned a cottage industry into a massive global dilemma.

In 2004, an enigmatic charter captain named Al Anderson caught and tagged one Atlantic bluefin tuna off New England's coast. Fourteen years later that same fish—dubbed Amelia for her ocean-spanning journeys—was caught again, this time in a Mediterranean fish trap.

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. Through Karen Pinchin's exclusive interviews and access, interdisciplinary approach, and mesmerizing storytelling, readers 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 Pinchin does, rays of dazzling hope for the future of our oceans.

About the author


  • Short-listed, Taste Canada Awards - Culinary Narratives
  • Winner, Evelyn Richardson Non-fiction Award
  • Short-listed, Kobo Emerging Writer Prize
  • Winner, Atlantic Book Awards - Margaret and John Savage First Book Award
  • Short-listed, Science Writers and Communicators of Canada Book Award - General Audience

Contributor Notes

KAREN PINCHIN is an award-winning investigative journalist and culinary school graduate. A recent Tow Fellow at PBS's Frontline, she graduated from Columbia Journalism School with a master of arts in science journalism and has since been supported by the Canada Council for the Arts and the Sloan Foundation. Her work has appeared in Scientific American, Canadian Geographic, Hakai Magazine, The Globe and Mail, and The Walrus, among other outlets. She lives, writes, and fishes in Halifax, Nova Scotia, with her husband, son, and a tankful of guppies.

Editorial Reviews

Winner of the 2024 Evelyn Richardson Non-Fiction Award and the Margaret and John Savage First Book Award, Non-Fiction (part of the Nova Scotia Book Awards)
Shortlisted for the 2024 Kobo Emerging Writer Prize
Shortlisted for the 2023 Science Writers and Communicators of Canada Book Award
“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

“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

“Comprehensive . . . exhaustive and engaging.” —Boston Globe

“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 globe-spanning, industry-hopping journey from the prehistoric to the present. . . . [Pinchin] seamlessly weaves the stories of those she met and interviewed . . . offer[ing] intimate testimony from veteran anglers, noteworthy scientists, environmentalists, and tuna industry professionals. . . . 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
“Epic. . . . [Kings of Their Own Ocean is] a riveting tale of greed, obsession, science, and hope for the future.” —Canadian Geographic
"An engaging and fascinating tale of a natural struggle that will help determine the future of the oceans." Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"Pinchin provides a solid analysis of the far-reaching consequences of human action on marine life."Publishers Weekly

“The descriptions of Amelia’s undersea wanderings are where Pinchin’s writing really comes alive, manifesting her passion for protecting all marine life.” Booklist
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
“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

“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

“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”

“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

“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
“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: Crime and Survival in North America’s Woods and a National Geographic Explorer

Kings of Their Own Ocean is a master work in environmental journalism. Karen Pinchin writes the story of bluefin tuna in waves, overlapping stories and timelines as she unveils a global interconnected industry. There’s adventure, history, and science, all bound together by an awe-inspiring fish and Pinchin’s muscular prose. A must-read.” —Laura Trethewey, author of The Imperiled Ocean and The Deepest Map
“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

“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

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