Anders Halverson provides an exhaustively researched and grippingly rendered account of the rainbow trout and why it has become the most commonly stocked and controversial freshwater fish in the United States. Discovered in the remote waters of northern California, rainbow trout have been artificially propagated and distributed for more than 130 years by government officials eager to present Americans with an opportunity to get back to nature by going fishing. Proudly dubbed an entirely synthetic fish” by fisheries managers, the rainbow trout has been introduced into every state and province in the United States and Canada and to every continent except Antarctica, often with devastating effects on the native fauna. Halverson examines the paradoxes and reveals a range of characters, from nineteenth-century boosters who believed rainbows could be the saviors of democracy to twenty-first-century biologists who now seek to eradicate them from waters around the globe. Ultimately, the story of the rainbow trout is the story of our relationship with the natural worldhow it has changed and how it startlingly has not.
…history, as we know but seldom remember, is often about unintended consequences, and few better examples can be cited than the story told in An Entirely Synthetic Fish, Anders Halverson's chronicle of how our best-intentioned efforts to widen and democratize the sport of trout fishing compromised mountain streams and lakes in often subtle but disturbing ways…Yet this is not one of those whiny, hand-wringing catalogs of environmental gloom and doom. With prose as engaging as it is thoughtful, Halverson has crafted an absorbing cautionary tale of ecological trial and error, documenting our tardy but increasing understanding of biological interdependence and its immeasurable value.