A splendid, subtle portrait of the fisherman's life--from Hokkaido to Norway, Chile to the Java Sea--by McCloskey (Highliners, 1978, etc.). After a stint in the Coast Guard, McCloskey shipped out on his first fishing vessel 20 years ago, and he has evidently been keeping notes on every voyage since, detailing the days and nights of those who pursue one of the most dangerous jobs on Earth--fishing. He has fished for king crab in the Bering Sea in winter, when the crabs are at their plumpest and the sea its nastiest; he has chased cod on the 1,000-year-old foggy and doomed Grand Banks fishery; he experienced the industrial-scale sardine fishery of Chile and the artisan fishing of Indonesia from small wooden boats (no radar here; fish are tracked at night by their phosphorescent wakes). He has spent a good amount of time with the Japanese fleet and shares with them a lust for the delicacies of the deep. And he has served on patrol boats enforcing compliance with the welter of maritime laws. Thus, as McCloskey explains the taking of shrimp and cod and squid, he is also able to speak knowledgeably about ship machinery, fishing ports, trawling and purse seining, the grand Law of the sea and the lesser laws governing salmon catches and whale harvesting, and the continuing havoc wreaked by the Exxon Valdez (ten years later, the herring have not returned, nor have the harlequin duck and pigeon guillemot). And best of all, McCloskey feels and conveys the atavism inherent in hunting the ocean, which he balances with deflating counterpoints. Says one old hand, ""It's a livin', b'y, but it ain't much of a life now, is it?"" Tales of fishermen at peril in high seas are hugely gripping. What makes McCloskey's book so memorable is that it invests in the everyday lives of fishermen the same compulsive readableness.