Karen Pinchin—Kings of Their Own Ocean: Tuna, Obsession, and the Future of Our Seas

Cover of the book Kings of Their Own Ocean: Tuna, Obsession, and the Future of Our Seas by Karen Pinchin showing the title in large black type, subtitle in orange, and images of bluefin tuna on a white background.

Kings of Their Own Ocean


Karen Pinchin
Dutton, July 18, 2023
Hardback $30, Kindle $15.99, audiobook $5.95
ISBN-10: 0593471474, ISBN-13: 978-0593471470
Kindle ASIN: B0BJPC96CM, audiobook ASIN: B0BL8WWXQ1

Pinchin reports:

I never planned to write a book about a fish. But that was before I heard about Amelia, a giant female bluefin tuna killed off Portugal’s southern coast in 2018, whose existence encapsulated so many pressing issues and struggles in our own complex world.

Before Amelia's death — she was killed by a scuba diver wielding a lupara, an exploding cartridge attached to a long pole — she had been marked by humans twice. The first time, in 2004, an obsessive Rhode Island fisherman named Capt. Al Anderson lodged a plastic tag in her back. The second time, in 2007, scientist Molly Lutcavage used a high-tech pop-up satellite tag.

Portrait photo of Karen Pinchin by Darren Calabrese

Karen Pinchin
Photo by Darren Calabrese

I first discovered Amelia via a call from Lutcavage: she was ecstatic, while I was mostly confused. But as I learned more about Anderson, who reminded me of my own mercurial father, their entwined stories felt undeniable.

My publishing experience was very lucky! I took Prof. Sam Freedman’s book-writing class at Columbia University while earning a Master's degree in science journalism, and eventually won the Lynton Award for my book proposal. That led to my signing with my incredible agent, Mackenzie Brady Watson.

Logistically, I doubled up reporting in Japan while working on my graduate thesis on American eel and poked away at my proposal while working at PBS FRONTLINE before and during the pandemic. I travelled widely for reporting and had the book fact-checked thanks to generous grants from the Canada Council for the Arts and the Sloan Foundation. My wonderful writing group came out of my time at Columbia, and I recommend aspiring writers of non-fiction fight to find their community. Writing a book is hard, lonely and alienating, but mine has also been the culmination of a dream. Both are true!

After COVID hit, my family ended up in Halifax, Nova Scotia, a few hours from where U.S. fishermen flocked during the giant gamefish craze of the 1930s. The chapter inspired by that period is one of my favorites, and is a good lesson to trust yourself and the process.

Contact info:

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Tell your fellow NASW members how you came up with the idea for your book, developed a proposal, found an agent and publisher, funded and conducted research, and put the book together. Include what you wish you had known before you began working on your book, or had done differently.

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Banner image adapted from original photo by Karen Pinchin.

Advance Copy

The path from idea to book may take myriad routes. The Advance Copy column, started in 2000 by NASW volunteer book editor Lynne Lamberg, features NASW authors telling the stories behind their books. Authors are asked to report how they got their idea, honed it into a proposal, found an agent and a publisher, funded and conducted their research, and organized their writing process. They also are asked to share what they wish they’d known when they started or would do differently next time, and what advice they can offer aspiring authors. Lamberg edits the authors’ answers to produce the Advance Copy reports.

NASW members: Will your book be published soon? Visit www.nasw.org/advance-copy-submission-guidelines for information on submitting your report.

Publication of NASW author reports in Advance Copy does not constitute NASW's endorsement of any publication or the ideas, values, or material contained within or espoused by authors or their books. We hope this column stimulates productive discussions on important topics now and in the future as both science and societies progress. We welcome your discussion in the comments section below.

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