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Episode 627
The Doctor's Farmacy

How Do I Eat Regeneratively Raised Farmed Fish?

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I would eat a lot more fish if I knew it was free from toxins like heavy metals, PCBs, and other dangerous compounds. It’s an incredibly healthy protein source when we can eliminate these factors, but sourcing clean fish can be tough. 

Today, I’m taking a deep dive into the issues surrounding fish, what kinds we should be eating, and everything in between with James Arthur Smith. 

I’ve talked a lot on the podcast about regenerative agriculture, but today we’re going to dive into regenerative aquaculture. James explains what these practices look like and why sustaining vital oceans doesn’t mean we have to stop fishing, but that we need to stop using extractive processes. 

We discuss the different ways that fish often become laden with toxins, what varieties are more or less likely to be affected, and how regenerative aquaculture can produce seafood that is healthier for our bodies and for our oceans. 

I appreciate James Arthur’s solution-oriented approach to seafood, which is a welcome angle from the fear-mongering we often hear in terms of health and climate problems. We talk about how choosing sustainable and clean seafood is one of many ways to vote with your dollar to impact our food system for the better.

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I hope you enjoyed this conversation as much as I did. Wishing you health and happiness,
Mark Hyman, MD
Mark Hyman, MD

Here are more of the details from our interview (audio):

  1. Why wild fish is not necessarily better than farmed fish
    (7:06)
  2. Assessing the pros and cons of aquaculture
    (12:39 )
  3. The types of fish I recommend to my patients
    (17:50)
  4. Destructive industrial fishing practices
    (18:14)
  5. The dangers of feedlot (or factory) fish
    (27:34)
  6. Creating regenerative aquaculture
    (34:12)
  7. Microplastics and fish consumption
    (41:15)
  8. Why I rarely eat tuna
    (52:48)
  9. Aquaculture policy efforts and challenges
    (1:02:59)
  10. Creating a healthy supply chain for aquaculture feed
    (1:07:10)

Guest

 
Mark Hyman, MD

Mark Hyman, MD is the Founder and Director of The UltraWellness Center, the Head of Strategy and Innovation of Cleveland Clinic's Center for Functional Medicine, and a 13-time New York Times Bestselling author.

If you are looking for personalized medical support, we highly recommend contacting Dr. Hyman’s UltraWellness Center in Lenox, Massachusetts today.

 
James Arthur Smith

James Arthur began his journey with regenerative aquaculture as a teenager volunteering at the Nature Interpretive Center in Southern California, where he got first-hand experience with a steelhead trout breeding and hatchery program. For the past ten years, he lived aboard and sailed around the Pacific from San Francisco to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands. Throughout that time, he’s been on a mission visiting ocean aquaculture farms, vetting claims, lab testing seafood, and connecting the best-in-class aquaculture projects with farm-to-table restaurants in California. 

In 2020 he founded SEATOPIA, a gourmet seafood subscription box now delivering certified mercury-safe seafood, carbon-neutral, direct to homes nationwide. Through SEATOPIA, he is endeavoring to scale a truly regenerative seafood supply chain and empower health-conscious consumers to directly support innovative aquaculture projects producing some of the healthiest protein on the planet.

Transcript Note: Please forgive any typos or errors in the following transcript. It was generated by a third party and has not been subsequently reviewed by our team.

Intro:
Coming up on this episode of The Doctor’s Farmacy.

James Arthur Smith:
The nuance is where is that seafood coming from? Simply because it’s wild-caught doesn’t necessarily mean that it was caught, A, in a sustainable manner and B, in a clean environment.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Welcome to The Doctor’s Farmacy. I’m Dr. Mark Hyman. That’s Farmacy. We have a place for conversations that matter. If you’ve ever been concerned or confused about the fish you’re eating, you’re not alone. I am, too, and we are, today, going to get deep into what is problem with fish today in the world, what fish we should be eating. Everything from mercury to PCBs, to microplastics, to farm-raised, to wild fish, and all the things in between.
We have one of the world’s experts in this topic, James Arthur, who began his journey with regenerative aquaculture. That’s a new one, regenerative aquaculture. As a teenager volunteering at the Nature Interpretive Center in Southern California, he got firsthand experience with steelhead trout breeding and hatchery. I actually was at the steelhead hatchery in Idaho where I lived on the Clearwater River in Orofino, and it was great to see what’s going on there. It’s pretty interesting.
For the past 10 years, he’s lived aboard and sailed around the Pacific, that sounds like a great life, from San Francisco to Ecuador to Galapagos. Through that time, he’s been on a mission visiting ocean aquaculture farms, vetting claims because a lot of people say, “This is healthy,” but it’s not, and I have a great story about that, lab testing seafood to actually measure what’s really going on, and connecting the best in class aquaculture projects with farm-to-table restaurants in California.
In 2020, he founded a company called Seatopia, S-E-A-T-O-P-I-A like Utopia, but from the sea, I think, I guess. A gourmet seafood subscription box now delivering certified mercury-safe, carbon-neutral food, seafood direct to your home nationwide. Through Seatopia, he is endeavoring to scale a truly regenerative aquaculture and seafood supply chain, and empower health conscious consumers to directly support innovative aquaculture projects producing some of the healthiest protein on the planet. Amazing. So, welcome, James.

James Arthur Smith:
Thank you so much. That’s quite an intro. Appreciate that.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Now, here’s the thing. I would eat way more fish if I knew it wasn’t polluted because fish is among the healthiest food. Even among those people who believe that meat is bad for your health, universally, scientists, doctors, all the research shows that fish is good for our health, but I’m terrified to eat fish because I got mercury poisoning when I was 36, and it just about knocked me flat. It led to me discovering functional medicine, but it was terrible. I grew up on tuna fish sandwiches. I ate swordfish. I had Chilean sea bass. I ate orange roughy all the time because it was cheap. I got it from Costco. It really knocked me down.
I’m so excited about what you’re doing. I think it’s such an important thing to bring awareness around what is healthy aquaculture, what is regenerative aquaculture. We’re raping the oceans. Many people have seen that show, Seaspiracy, on Netflix which talks about the horrific conditions of fishing around the world, the overfishing, the illegal fishing, the bycatch, which I’ll talk about. So there’s this movement where now people are trying to care about what meat they’re eating, what chicken they’re eating, where their food comes from, talking about regenerative agriculture, grass-fed meat. There’s this new movement, really, around regenerative aquaculture.

James Arthur Smith:
Yes.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Why isn’t wild fish necessarily better for us than… and the planet, right? It’s not just us, and the planet than farm fish because that’s… Most people think that wild fish is better. You’re going, “Wait a minute. There’s maybe some issues with that.” Let’s talk about it.

James Arthur Smith:
Yeah. It’s one of those things that just has so much nuance to it. Right? But if we want to address, first, the better for the planet, we have to think about the supply and demand, and the data is really clear that there’s simply more demand than there is supply. The gross production of wild-caught seafood has not been increasing. It has actually plateaued and even started to descend since 2002. There’s not a new source of wild-caught seafood that we’re going to find.
Meanwhile, population is growing. More middle class affluence looking for healthier alternatives of protein, and seafood is that generally. So there’s just not enough seafood, but then the nuance is where is that seafood coming from? Simply because it’s wild-caught doesn’t necessarily mean that it was caught, A, in a sustainable manner and B, in a clean environment. So, unfortunately, all rivers lead to the ocean, and everything that ends up in the ocean is a lot, and that includes industrial pollutants and toxins from glyphosate. There’s just a myriad of things that are now affecting the oceans. So, coal-fired plants, fertilizers, and auto brake dust.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Plastics.

James Arthur Smith:
So all of these things are showing up in the ocean.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Plastics.

James Arthur Smith:
Microplastics are a huge issue.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah.

James Arthur Smith:
So we can now test fish and see these elements in the food chain. So while there are beautiful places in the ocean, we have to be really conscientious of where it’s coming from. In general, the reason Seatopia exists right now is to try to define… create a new supply chain that is bringing better products. I’m not saying that all wild-caught fish is bad by any means. It’s just that we have to be looking at it a lot more mindfully. Not all wild pigeon is necessarily something that you want to consume. The same thing is happening in the ocean.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah. Right. Yeah. I know. That’s so true. I mean, I’ve been to the Antarctica, I’ve been to the Arctic, and these are pristine environments, but when those populations of fish and penguins are measured and their whales, they’re so toxic, even in these pristine environments. So we really polluted the oceans in ways that we have just begun to understand. Like you said, from coal effluent, from the microplastics, from the nitrogen fertilizers to the PCBs, all the things that just pour into our rivers, lakes, streams, and oceans.

James Arthur Smith:
Yeah, lakes too.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
I mean, in America, the EPA said there’s not… Lakes.

James Arthur Smith:
Lakes are terrible.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
I mean, I had a patient with severe mercury poisoning because he fished out of his lake in rural, I think, Alabama or something, and I’m thinking, “Wow.”

James Arthur Smith:
Yeah.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Everywhere is polluted, and we can’t get away from it.

James Arthur Smith:
Yeah. The levels in the lakes are higher than the ocean in many cases. Yeah, [inaudible 00:07:00].

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Absolutely. I would never eat a lake fish or most river fish. In fact, the EPA says to not ever eat river fish in America because it’s full of mercury. So, the environment, it’s hugely impacted by what we’re doing industrially and the planet, and a lot of fishing practices are problematic. We think, “Oh, aquaculture is great. We can grow fish in a way that we don’t have to rip the original stocks out of the ocean,” but a lot of aquaculture practices are really bad. Even things we think are good. I was in Turkey, and I was in Bodrum, which is on the coast of Turkey. It’s beautiful between… right off all the Greek Islands. Out in the ocean there, you could see these big aquacultures, and they sell the…

James Arthur Smith:
Tuna?

Dr. Mark Hyman:
No, it wasn’t tuna. It was sea bass, and they sell this stuff to Whole Foods as “healthy, safe fish,” but I knew that people who were involved with it and had looked at it very carefully. These fish were grown in horrible conditions, pump full of antibiotics, and were grown in highly concentrated ways in very shallow water. I mean, it was really bad. Yet, they were sold as “healthy options” in Whole Foods. I was like, “Whoa.” Then, they were talking about other forms of aquaculture.
I forget the name of it, but the concept was that you would keep the fish protected in a certain area and let them grow, and grow, and grow, but never fish. Then, eventually, the populations of fish would get so large in those areas, it would spill over outside of that protected area, and you could really harvest those fish, and the original stock would keep going and keep spilling over the fish.
So I’d love you to talk about the idea that we can do aquaculture as a way to fill the void from the increasingly diminishing fish stocks around the world. We’re really raping the oceans. Not only we’re just fishing legally, but there’s a lot of illegal fishing going on that’s even making it worse. China, and Japan, and many other countries that just don’t care. So can you talk about that a little bit? How do we look at the pros and cons of aquaculture?

James Arthur Smith:
Well, there are so many pros, and then there’s a lot of cons. As you pointed out, not all farms are doing it right. The concept of aquaculture as a commercial business is relatively new. Well, aquaculture has been around for a millennium. Chinese practiced aquaculture, the Hawaiians still practice aquaculture to a certain extent. It’s being revived. Once upon a time, Pearl Harbor was one of the largest food production sites in the entire Pacific. All fish ponds.
What’s happening with aquaculture now as it commercializes is the first handful of aquaculture businesses that took outside investment essentially took money from big ag businesses, and that same business model was applied to aquaculture where they just figured out, “Well, how do we maximize our profits, and get as little risk as possible, and use the same tools?” The antibiotics, the steroids, the hormones, these are the things that allowed these fish to grow very rapidly, mitigate against disease, and get as much profit as possible, but it wasn’t… The objective is not necessarily to produce the best quality fish, the healthiest fish, the most regenerative.
So that really stemmed from the objectives of those investors in that business model, but what we’re seeing now is more nuanced and more types of farming catering to other types of consumers, consumers who are asking for something that is high in omega-3s, not omega-6s, that is not depleting the oceans with fish meal and fish oil raised in humane ways, harvested in humane ways. So the maturity of the industry is starting to happen, and part of that I think is enabled because consumers are starting to ask more questions about the types of farming that is happening with their beef, and their chicken, and their tomatoes.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah.

James Arthur Smith:
There’s a level of education with consumers now to where most consumers aren’t just asking for USDA prime beef. They’re asking for something that’s grass-fed, grass-finished, pasture-raised, cage-free. These are the things that weren’t talked about. It wasn’t common education lexicon of a consumer 20 years ago. We’re starting to see that happen, and our hope and vision through education around aquaculture, and bringing people to the farms, and showing them the different types of feeds and methodologies of farming is that terms like “multi-trophic aquaculture,” and “recirculating aquaculture systems,” and “algae-fed feed” will become commonplace. That’s where we’re going.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah. Amazing. So, in a way, we maybe still have some wild fishing, but you’re saying the future of fishing is really around sustainable regenerative aquaculture. Is that what you’re saying?

James Arthur Smith:
Yeah. I don’t think that we need to stop fishing. I just don’t think we should be condoning industrial scale extraction of the oceans. The evolution of our relationship with hunting evolving into cultivating and farming, that was civilization. We are still extracting massive quantities from the ocean even though those numbers are depleting, and I think as we’re now learning to work with the ocean, hopefully, we’ll see more regenerative practices.
As you were talking about, marine protected areas. When you protect one area, identifying key habitats where… over a large swath of the ocean, some areas are more important than others. Some areas are key breeding habitats or migratory paths. We protect these key areas. The fish can come, they can spawn, they can breed, they can migrate, and then yeah, it will spill over. We can maintain some sustainable levels and even help regenerate, but we have to change things significantly.
Quite frankly, the transition to aquaculture done right has the potential to more than feed the world’s protein needs, and it’s happening whether we want it or not simply because of the demand. What isn’t for sure is if there’s enough education, and demand, and desire to do it right to have specific types of aquaculture really create a net positive impact on the environment before just industrial scale commodification of factory farms proliferate.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
I mean, I want to get back into the idea that doing regenerative aquaculture can be truly regenerative. In other words, a net positive to the environment, a net positive to climate because that’s something new that I haven’t really heard. What I want to explore is this idea that… and I think the wild fishing is a problem for me in many ways because of bycatch, which I want you to explain in a minute, and because we polluted the ocean so much that even if we’re hunting and harvesting wild fish in the proper ways, there’s still a high likelihood that those fish are full of junk, like full of metals, and petrochemicals, and plastics.
So I always tell people, “Eat the little fish,” anchovies, sardines, herring, mackerel because I see in my practice, when people don’t, I measure their heavy metal levels, they just start to rise. So let’s talk about, one, the issues of what bycatch is, what industrial fishing is doing to the planet and to our fish stocks, and just educate people briefly about that.

James Arthur Smith:
Sure.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Then, I want to get into this whole idea of the bad way of doing aquaculture and the right way.

James Arthur Smith:
Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Well, if it bleeds, it leads. Right? So that documentary, Seaspiracy, got so much attention. Those are really great storytellers, really great filmmakers. They told a story that needed to be told. There’s a lot of truth to what they’re saying. I think what they missed was identifying any of the solutions. Right?

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yes.

James Arthur Smith:
So let’s talk first about the bleeding part, the bleeding part. Technology developed in war, like radar is now being implemented to identify where fish are underwater at massive scale. The largest fishing fleets in the world go out with multiple vessels and helicopters to identify where the schools are. They have small speed boats that encircle the school, wrap a net around, and capture the entire thing. What is in that is not just the target species because when you’re targeting an entire school, swimming alongside that school of tuna is going to be a myriad of other species that are cohabitating with them, and you can’t discriminate between those.
By the time all of those fish are suffocated and brought on board through a purse-seine net, the compression on those fish is just going kill everything. So bycatch is the turtles, the dolphins, the seals, the non-target species of fish that were either too small or too big that are going to just be off-cast, and so bycatch is a huge issue. So that’s one form of farming or excuse me, fishing, purse-seining.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah.

James Arthur Smith:
It’s generally considered highly destructive.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah.

James Arthur Smith:
Some people try to argue that there’s ways that you can target them, but on an industrial scale, it’s very difficult to target and be discriminatory because there’s times when we… There’s efforts. There’s a saying in fishing, “The fish that are slow to grow, let them go because the largest ones, the ones that grew really slowly and got there, If we just target those, we can wipe out the ones that are breeding and spawning at the highest rates.” Oftentimes, it’s those largest ones. You take them out, and you can really disrupt an entire population.
So longlining is another form of fishing. So a line-caught fish could be what you’re familiar with when you romanticize the story of fishing with one line and one hook. But in industrial scale fishing, longlining means a line that could be mile or multiple miles long with literally thousands of hooks. Each one of those hooks is baited and set in the water for 24-plus hours. Anything that comes along, takes that bait is stuck on that hook, and suffocates to death because by the time they come back and pull in that multiple mile long net, every hook that was baited has something on it. Invariably, it’s difficult to identify what species that you’re trying to target. They have things called circle hooks where they endeavor to make it easier for some species to get off, but again, it’s really difficult to target certain species.
Bottom trawling is another type of fishing where basically, a rake goes along the bottom of the ocean and just catches everything that… scrapes it up and disrupts the entire ecosystem. These vital parts of the sea floor are being completely disrupted and upended. It’s akin to slashing and burning in the rainforest. It’s super disruptive, and there’s efforts to say like, “What is the maximum sustainable yield?” and they stopped doing bottom fishing in certain areas, and then it comes back a couple years later just to deplete as soon as possible because the reality is with industrial scale fishing, there’s not enough fish in the ocean. You have all of these boats and this established industry that frankly is subsidized, and they’re going to go out there and get as much as they can because they haven’t been hitting their quotas in the past, and they just… They’re depleting those quotas time and time again.
Every year, we’re seeing shorter and shorter runs on the Copper River salmon and all these different species. they’re simply not enough to feed growing demand, and industrial scale fishing is terrible. This is just in local waters. When I sailed to the Galapagos, we’re sailing along in a small sailboat, and you come across a huge industrial scale fishing vessel with no AIS. So AIS is a broadcasting system.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
No flag on it.

James Arthur Smith:
Well, essentially, there’s a requirement by certain vessels to broadcast through satellite where they are, the name of the vessel, the direction they’re going. But when they’re doing things illegally, they just turn it off.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Like pirate ships almost, right? Pirate ships.

James Arthur Smith:
Yeah. Literally, they’re pirating. They’re in areas that are protected. They’re not supposed to be fishing, but there they are. Just lots of it.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Incredible. Okay. So regular industrial fishing is a problem, and aside from all the pollution in the oceans, it’s overfishing fish stocks, but one of the problems is aquaculture because… “Oh, well, let’s farm fish. That’s better.” But the truth is that a lot of the aquaculture fish are fed fish from the ocean, fish that we wouldn’t eat, right?

James Arthur Smith:
Sometimes.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
But they catch those fish, they grind them up into pellets, and then they feed them to the fish. It takes about 10 pounds of this bycatch and these other fish to create one pound of fish that we want to eat, so.

James Arthur Smith:
Sometimes. Yeah. Yeah, depends on the species, the feed conversion ratio.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Right?

James Arthur Smith:
Yeah. Absolutely.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
It’s crazy.

James Arthur Smith:
Yeah, yeah. It is a known issue with the industry, and there’s been a lot of support for a transition, and a lot of progress has been made in that regard. For example, there was an FAO mandate, I think it was like five years ago, to reduce dependency on wild stock fish in aquaculture. For the most part, that has happened very rapidly. Almost all of the largest aquaculture projects have transitioned to reducing their fish oil and fish meal use, and they’ve done that in a way that doesn’t necessarily benefit human’s health and nutrition.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
No.

James Arthur Smith:
They’ve said, “Okay…”

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Corn and grains.

James Arthur Smith:
Exactly.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Soy.

James Arthur Smith:
The oils from canola and soy are similar. They’re achieving some similar growth rates and whatnot, but they achieved the objective, number one, which was reduce dependency on the bait fish.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah.

James Arthur Smith:
Absolutely, that happened, and in some sense…

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Well, you are what you eat, but you’re also whatever you’re eating ate. Right?

James Arthur Smith:
Yeah, and that’s so important. Yeah.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
So if these fish were eating crap, it’s crap for you. Right?

James Arthur Smith:
Yeah. That’s so important to acknowledge. Yeah, but I do have to at least acknowledge that these organizations set a goal to reduce impact on the oceans, and really, it’s the responsibility of you and I now to say, “Hey, we want better nutrition,” right, because aquaculture demand on wild-caught seafood… Aquaculture is necessary, and reducing impact on the oceans was necessary. Do we as consumers feel it’s necessary to reduce our intake of omega-6s and get better quality? We have to voice that. Otherwise, the industry is just going to keep doing what they do because there’s tons of subsidies for corn and soy.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
So just like there’s a conventional feedlot beef in regular agriculture, there’s also feedlot fish, industrially-raised fish, which is in aquacultures.

James Arthur Smith:
Yes.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
There’s also regenerative, which we’ll talk about in a minute. But before we get to that, I want to go into the dangers and the problems with feedlot fish and why we should be so concerned about it. What is the conditions they’re growing in? What are the challenges they face? What does it do to the environment? What does it do to our health? What are the contaminants in there? So take us through that story of the dangers of feedlot fish for us and the planet.

James Arthur Smith:
Sure. Oh, wow. Well, you don’t want to eat stress, toxins, and bad karma. I mean, feedlot fish, factory-raised fish are similar to factory-raised animals and factory-raised terrestrial farms. They’re putting a lot of living creatures into a confined space and feeding them low-quality diets that result in inflammation in their systems, and reduced immune systems, and higher likelihood of disease outbreak spreading through an entire population. That is not cool to the fish. You have all of these living creatures living really uncomfortable lives, high mortality rates, and also in high concentration. When you have an open ocean, you have an aquaculture site in shallow water as you indicated there in the Adriatic Sea, I’m assuming. Those fish, they’re effluent. You have just like a cattle farm with all of these cattle confined in a small space.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Their poop.

James Arthur Smith:
Their poop becomes toxic, and in a fish farm, the poop falling directly underneath in a shallow environment without enough current and is this high concentration of nitrogen that can completely kill the sea floor, and there’s so many organisms that are integral to the biodiversity of these ecosystems that are being destroyed because of poorly sited, highly concentrated living creatures. Also, what’s going into the feed? Are you feeding them… It’s one thing to feed them the fish meal and the fish oil. That’s relatively natural for the environment, even though it’s an overabundance of concentration. But if you’re feeding them antibiotics and hormones, that stuff then is in the effluent as well and going right back into the environment.
So, yeah. Fish farms that are poorly sited using high concentrations, high-density, intensive farming practices are bad for the environment, and they’re feeding the fish really low-quality diets, and results in a quality of fish that, in some cases, is probably on par with what consumers are looking for at Ralph’s or when they’re buying their factory farm chicken. But in some cases, it might even be healthier. It might have a better profile and be more digestible, but is it really health food? Is it a super food? Is it the potential of what seafood should be? It’s definitely not in line with the kind of Mediterranean diets that result in blue zones, so. Yeah.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah. Incredible. So you’re talking about these intensive, almost like feedlot fish farms, which the animals are fed weird food. Their poop is polluting the environment. They’re maybe exposed to more drugs as part of dealing with growing these foods, antibiotics, hormones, but they’re also exposed to PCBs, and toxins, and heavy metals, and other things that are in the ocean. So it doesn’t mean because it’s farmed doesn’t mean that you’re necessarily going to have these things absent from the fish. Is that right?

James Arthur Smith:
Yeah. PCBs are coming from the wild-caught fish that are being turned into a fish meal. So this strange karma of our human society is that we’ve put all these PCBs into the environment, all of these fire retardants and whatnot, these chemicals that last forever are going into the food system. Now, these chemicals are being consumed by the zooplankton, the plankton, the phytoplankton, and the anchovies. Then, when a fishing vessel goes out and catches all of those and turns it into fish meal and feeds it to a fish, they’re getting a concentration of that. There’s ways to remove it. The most innovative farms are doing it now.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
It’s even worse because…

James Arthur Smith:
Yeah.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah.

James Arthur Smith:
The PCBs are a thing. It’s in wild-caught fish too, but it can be concentrated in a fish feed if you’re not filtering it. There are technologies with centrifuges to pull that out, but…

Dr. Mark Hyman:
You mean to get out heavy metals and to get out the pesticides, and the toxins, and the microplastics?

James Arthur Smith:
Yeah. Absolutely.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah.

James Arthur Smith:
Absolutely. Yeah.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Reflecting on this conversation, I remember I traveled to Spain years ago, and I encountered this fish farm called Veta La Palma. What you’re talking about in terms of most modern aquaculture is intensive fish farming or feedlot fish.

James Arthur Smith:
Yeah.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Veta La Palma is an extensive fish farm.

James Arthur Smith:
Exactly.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
It essentially took 8,000 acres that was an estuary, and they had it drained to become a cattle farm. That didn’t work, so they got it back, and they hired an ecologist to restore the ecosystem. They didn’t really even have a hatchery. They just allowed the natural processes to start to bring back the natural fish and the shrimp. It was amazing because of this natural ecosystem they developed. They produced thousands of tons of fish in a much larger area, obviously, but the all the estuary filtered out all the toxins. There was high levels of omega-3s. There was incredible richness in the sea bream and the sea bass that they had in terms of the quality, the taste of the fish. Really amazing.
Dan Barber did a TED Talk on it, the shrimp, and it was interesting. They said they measure the quality of the ecosystem in the fish farm based on the health of the predators, and these flamingos would fly for 150 miles just to go eat the shrimp, and they ate about half the shrimp, about 20% of the fish, but they still have to harvest enough to make it worthwhile. So they created this beautiful ecosystem, and essentially, that’s what regenerative agriculture is. It’s restoring the natural ecosystem on the land, but you’re saying you can do that in the water too.

James Arthur Smith:
Yeah, yeah.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
How do we move towards the natural logical conclusion here, which is how do we create regenerative aquaculture that doesn’t pollute the oceans, that creates healthy fish, that doesn’t create fish with toxins, that is helpful to the environment, that’s not creating more destruction? Can you take us through what does that look like? Where is it being done? What have you learned on your journeys?

James Arthur Smith:
I’m so glad that you brought up Veta La Palma because it’s such a wonderful example, and I hope that there’s more… There’s a film called The Biggest Little Farm that was shot here in LA about this small farm.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah, yeah. Yep.

James Arthur Smith:
I feel like we need a story like that about Veta La Palma and other players that are really endeavoring to be good partners with the ocean. Veta La Palma not only is producing fish that are for human consumption and those flamingos are coming. They didn’t just regenerate that estuary. Estuaries are key habitats and breeding grounds for a lot of fish that go back out to the ocean. So there’s a lot of species like halibut and various other species. They come up into these estuaries, that’s where they breed, that’s where they spawn, and then those species go back out into the ocean.
So just creating that habitat and having the right symbiotic partnership between those plants, between the algae, between the bacteria that are in those estuaries, they’re able to bio-remediate to rebuild that habitat and create healthy bio-diverse ecosystem for other species that are going back out into the ocean. So it is a great example, and absolutely, the same theories are being applied in open ocean aquaculture as well.
The synthetic partnerships, the players that are involved in that permaculture operation in the ocean are a little bit different. You don’t necessarily have the estuary plants in the ocean, but there’s other plants and organisms that will filter the dissolved particles, and the nitrogens, and the particulates. So, in the ocean, you’re going to be partnering kelp, and shellfish, and sea cucumbers with fish. Those sort of partnerships create the balance of nutrients, filter feeding, photosynthesis that can create a healthy balanced ecosystem. So that’s…

Dr. Mark Hyman:
That’s amazing.

James Arthur Smith:
In the scientific [inaudible 00:31:43].

Dr. Mark Hyman:
So can it be a carbon sink in a way? It can be a carbon sink as well?

James Arthur Smith:
100%. 100%. 100%. Yeah.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
So it filters and cleans the ocean. It creates a carbon sink. It creates healthy fish that are more nutrient-dense. It’s like a win-win-win.

James Arthur Smith:
The ocean is the largest carbon sink on the planet.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
It is. Yeah.

James Arthur Smith:
When we invest and help foster mechanisms that can scale ocean-based carbon sinks, it’s some of the most powerful mechanisms for carbon sequestration on the planet, for sure.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
That’s pretty amazing, and the regenerative agriculture is a new idea, really. It’s emerging from this mess of fish farming and harvesting fish in ways that are destructive to the environment and to the fish populations, and getting away from this sort of commodity production. So the question is, is it possible to scale this up? I mean, maybe Veta La Palma is a cute, little hobby fish farm in Spain, and it creates delicious fish, but is that really going to meet the demands of billions of people on the planet for seafood? How do we take this idea, and can it scale?

James Arthur Smith:
Yeah. Absolutely. People could ask the same questions of regenerative cattle farms. Is it scalable? I think it absolutely is. It’s just we have to have a different distribution model, and a different incentive model, and a relationship to where our farms are. Right? It’s very difficult to scale a massive industrial scale monoculture and do it in a truly sustainable regenerative manner, but those systems were built for our current distribution platform. Right? It’s an economic vehicle that will move massive quantities of commodity products quickly through these distribution channels.
If we’re going to decentralize distribution channels, in order to transition to supporting lots of small regenerative farms, artisan farms, a distributed network needs to establish. So how do we plug in these distributed networks to support these farms or enable these farms to support their local ecosystems, their local communities? That I think, absolutely, is scale.
I mean, it happens in nature. Nature is absolutely abundant. The abundance in nature when allowed to have these symbiotic relationships produces biomass that could easily feed the world if done correctly. So, yeah. Scalable? Yes. Easy to plug into the existing distribution channels? No, very difficult. So that’s why there’s this hiccup, right? Aquaculture farms have grown to sell their products into existing systems. Those systems were really asking for commodity products that were cheap and available in large quantities in order to fulfill demand and current format spec.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
So are you saying we need to eat different kinds of fish than we’re used to eating and get used to different kinds of seafood or…

James Arthur Smith:
I’m saying that it’s difficult for Whole Foods, for example, to support lots of small farms. If you go to a Whole Foods, it’s really hard to know what farm the fish came from because their distribution model makes it difficult for them to support individual farms by name because they’re constantly buying from different farms and different suppliers, and so it’s this commoditized system. If you go to your farmer’s market, you can ask specific questions because they’re not commoditizing their products.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah. I mean, you can’t. Traceability and transparency is the problem, right? We don’t know where our food comes from. It could come from some horrible, Vietnam fish farm where they’re growing shrimp, and it’s full of crap. I’m like, “Oh, this is shrimp. It’s healthy,” but actually, maybe it’s not.

James Arthur Smith:
Yeah. I would like to say there are, in Vietnam, some fair trade farms that are doing it right, that are doing extensive farming where they’re preserving mangrove. That traceability even in those places is absolutely cornerstone because we need to support those farms in Vietnam as well that are doing it right.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah. Amazing. So I want to veer off a little bit on a topic that always is in the conversation these days. We know about heavy metals, we know about mercury and fish PCBs, but microplastics is a little bit of a new concept. There was a UC Davis study that found one in four fish have microplastics in them. I think it might be even more than that. So can you talk about what are microplastics, where do they come from, how they get in fish, and what are the health consequences of us consuming fish with microplastics? I mean, I’ve had some people say some dieticians and nutritionists don’t eat any fish because it’s full of microplastics and even the benefits of the fish are going to be outweighed by the harms of the microplastics. So what do you think about that?

James Arthur Smith:
Well, I’ll address how it gets into the fish, and I’d be more than happy to talk about that study. I think it’s really important, and we need more studies on this, but then I might turn it back to you because I want your opinion on the health benefits and how it outweighs. I think that’s an interesting question.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah.

James Arthur Smith:
There are ways to mitigate exposures to microplastics where you raise the fish, what goes into the fish. That’s what aquaculture is all about, controlled environments, controlled feed. But to address wild-caught seafood, that study, UC Davis went to fish markets all up and down the Pacific Coast and bought wild-caught local seafood. Then, the study looked at the presence of microplastics both in the stomach and in the flesh, and they found that there was microplastics in 25% of those fish.
Microplastics are not visible size pieces of plastic. It is what happens when plastic degrades over time and it starts decomposing. It turns into these small particles that are mistaken by the zooplankton and other small creatures as food because oftentimes, they’re attracting other algae and what may be growing on it, and it gets consumed, and it’s not digested, and it’s bio-accumulating just like mercury into the food system. It’s going from one fish up into the next, and it’s now in our food system. Yeah. It’s really difficult to remove as well. There’s wonderful projects out there right now like the Ocean Cleanup Project that is taking all of the plastics out of the Pacific Gyre. There’s so much plastic in the ocean now. Those reports that we’re on track to have more plastic in the ocean than fish.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Wow.

James Arthur Smith:
All of that plastic is breaking down into these microparticles. It’s possible to clean up the large particles, but once it breaks down into these small particles, it’s almost impossible. It just gets consumed…

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah. We’re going to put the whole ocean through a water filter?

James Arthur Smith:
Yeah, and it’s already in a lot of the food systems. Right? So it’s essentially laying down this new layer of petroleum products that will be mined at some point in the future. Yeah. It’s a shame. We have to hold these plastic producers responsible. We can’t keep putting plastics in the ocean. Plastics are going into the oceans through myriad ways. Sometimes it’s just large pieces of plastics. Sometimes it’s the microparticles in makeup or things that are going into the storm drain, but it’s really difficult to remove it once it’s in there. Now, yeah, it’s absolutely in the food system.
It’s not just near rivers. It’s in the open ocean. It’s in the bottom of the Himalayas… It’s the top of the Himalayas, and it’s the bottom of the Mariana Trench. So, yeah. How does it affect humans? There are some studies about that, and I’d be curious to hear what your doctor friend said, but it’s definitely not good for us, especially somebody who’s trying to avoid exposure to petrol chemicals, and their effects on hormones, and things of that nature. Yeah.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah. I don’t think most people understand that plastic comes from petrochemicals. It’s like an oil-based product, right?

James Arthur Smith:
Yeah, yeah. Then, how is that affecting our hormones, and our thyroid, and all these other things? There are some studies that are really alarming. I try to be an optimist. I have friends who still… I used to spear fish. Now, I go, and I shoot photos of fish because I’ve transitioned to not wanting to partake in that, but I do have friends who still catch fish in the ocean and consume it. I still believe, I try to be optimistic, that there’s a healthy consumption, and some of the benefits like the omega-3s and the selenium outweigh some of the challenges with mercury and plastics, but it’s not the same as when you and I were kids, or our grandparents, or our ancestors. The accumulation of toxins from the industrialization of humankind is now all in our food system, unfortunately.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
It’s terrible. What’s really exciting to me is that you’re not just bringing to light the challenges of conventional/industrial fishing or the dangers of conventional agriculture and feedlot fishing, fish farming, and the potential benefits, but you’ve actually helped us because you’ve found out if we do aquaculture right, that we can produce seafood that’s measurably better through high omega-3s, lower heavy metals, PCBs in 99% of wild-caught fish, and also provide a lot of benefits to the environment, and be sustainable to eat and scale, and make more protein, which is amazing. You created this company called Seatopia, which is… I love the name. It’s like the opposite of Seaspiracy, right, or Sea Apocalypse, which is where we’re in now.

James Arthur Smith:
Yeah.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
I’d love to hear how the idea came about you, how you test food, and what you found in this journey of yours, and how we begin to shift our consumption to support places around the world that are doing it right.

James Arthur Smith:
Yeah. Yeah. Seatopia was an evolution from this need to create that economic feedback that directly supports farms. So I was working with a farm that was producing some of the best quality yellowtail in the world, and their distribution like every other farm was through a distributor who just commoditized the product and wasn’t telling the story of that farm. So even though they’re producing the best quality product in the world using the best quality feeds and harvesting in a very humane way, their product was literally put into a bucket with other farms that were doing it in inferior quality. Then, the restaurants at the end wouldn’t actually know which farm it came from or why it was inconsistent in quality.
So we started bringing these whole fresh fish direct to restaurants, some of the best farm-to-table restaurants in Southern California, and then we started bringing the chefs to visit the farms. The chefs got to eat the feed and swim with the fish, and then we started working with other farms. This direct connection to the best farmed fish in the world was just such a beautiful, true, authentic relationship. At the same time, we had consumers, friends in the community and our network who were aware that this quality of fish was just so much better than anything else that they were buying at these restaurants, these high-end restaurants like Spago and Hotel Bel-Air. People would stop our delivery van and be like, “I want that fish for my house.”

Dr. Mark Hyman:
They hijacked what was going to the restaurant.

James Arthur Smith:
Literally, I had people like, “Can I just buy a fish?” It’s not really scalable to send whole fresh fish to your door, and so the idea of how do we get a… with integrity, how do we bring truly sustainable regenerative seafood to people’s doors so that you don’t have to go to those fancy restaurants, that you can actually eat it as part of your daily meal planning? So Seatopia was really evolved from that, but it didn’t kick off really until tell COVID because prior to COVID, there just wasn’t an appetite, or enough appetite, or enough conviction from the market or from our investors that people would buy seafood online. But during COVID, the opportunity to continue to support these farms that at the moment didn’t have any of their food service sales channels, they still had all these living animals that needed to be fed. How do we keep these businesses alive?
Well, Seatopia, during COVID, created that, continued that cycle, and was able to grow and build a sales channel that directly supports small farms, is providing a layer of traceability on the mercury testing and other testing. So we take a sample of every lot that comes in, it goes to a third-party laboratory, FDA-approved, and quantifies the presence of heavy metals and things of that nature. Everything is vacuum-sealed so that it’s freezer-safe, and packaged in totally eco-friendly packaging, and shipped to the consumer with dry ice. It’s all sushi-grade.
The idea is that doing this short distribution, short supply chain between the farms, not a bunch of middle men, having full traceability and transparency allows consumers to say, “I liked this fish. I want to buy more of this particular farm. I want to support this farm, and I want to go visit it as well. If there’s an opportunity to do a dinner at that farm next year, I’m going to put it on my calendar, and we’re going to make a vacation to go visit Veta La Palma or this farm in Norway, or Hawaii, or Costa Rica.”
We’re working with some of these beautiful farms here in the United States as well, but this connection to where your food comes from, knowing who the producer is, and saying with your dollar every month, “I want to support that business, that particular farm because I understand their farming practices. They’re using algae-based feeds. They’re doing recirculating aquaculture. They’re using low-density farming. They’re harvesting in a humane way. I understand that, and I want to vote for that.” That’s the idea of Seatopia is that we can create this distributed network that will support lots of small farms and connect them to consumers. Yeah. It’s like a CSA of sorts, but…

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah.

James Arthur Smith:
Yeah.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
FSA, right?

James Arthur Smith:
Yeah.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Full support or something like that.

James Arthur Smith:
Yeah.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
It’s quite amazing, actually. I’ve been lucky enough to get a box of this fish, and it’s just phenomenal. I mean, it’s really good, and it’s unusually good compared to the fish you normally would get. Even what you think is like, “Okay. I’m getting this farm in Norway or whatever.” It’s just next level. I’m very impressed, and I’m worried about seafood. I can relax a little bit when I have this fish, and I want to talk about some of the fish farms. Tuna is a big thing, but I tell my patients never to eat tuna. Will I eat it occasionally? Maybe buy one piece of toro tuna sushi once a year, and I’ll take a detox pill after, but there’s fish like Kampachi which can be raised with little or no mercury and without plastics.

James Arthur Smith:
Yeah.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
How does that happen? How do you create this because you don’t think like tuna, this big fish? How do you that in a way that doesn’t create these problems?

James Arthur Smith:
We’re thinking about putting a page on our website that said, “Click here for tuna,” and then you’d get there, and it’d be like, “Sorry, tuna is not part of our system,” because unfortunately, it’s simply not a species of fish that has a metabolism that is sustainable to farm. They just have these high blood pressure, warm blooded creatures with tons of energy that are used to just gobbling up massive quantities of fish and never stop swimming, and they just burn through calories nonstop. It’s not a good model for raising fish. A Kampachi? Absolutely is a model. So not all fish are good models of sustainable businesses or sustainable aquaculture. There are people who farm and ranch tuna, but the feed conversion ratio, the amount of fish that goes in to produce one pound of fish with a tuna is generally around 20 to 1.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Wow.

James Arthur Smith:
That conversion ratio is just such a waste, whereas…

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Not sustainable. Yeah.

James Arthur Smith:
Yeah, and the dynamic of the way the fish grow, and live, and expend energy, how active are they, has a direct relation to that. So Kampachi, for example, convert fish feed closer to one to one. So they produce still a meat that’s comparable to tuna, especially comparable to a yellowfin that has that meatiness. It’s yellowtail. If you ate sushi, hamachi, hiramasa, Kampachi are all in the yellowtail family, and it’s a delicious, hearty, but fatty, luscious piece of butter.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah. Amazing. Amazing.

James Arthur Smith:
It can be raised in a sustainable manner, and they can be adapted to unique diets. So a diet based on an algae is something that they’re happy to consume, have great health on. Tuna are so finicky, it’s difficult to get them to eat anything other than whole sardines, and that’s just not a sustainable way to raise an animal.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah.

James Arthur Smith:
So we’re working with farms that are identifying the most efficient types of fish, and shellfish, and kelps, and algaes in order to create this food system that is sustainable to feed them with ingredients that are sustainable, that are healthy for us, that are not using antibiotics, or hormones, or GMOs, and that process is something worth celebrating. There are farms that are worth celebrating, and that’s what we’re trying to do.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah. It’s amazing.

James Arthur Smith:
I’m not saying that all farm fish is great. I’m just saying that there are farms that are doing it right, that are sustainable, that are implementing regenerative practices that we should be celebrating those individual farms.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah, and tell us about that because I got a package, and I got this king fish, which I’d never really eaten before. It was so delicious. Tell us about some of the farms that you’ve found that are great, and just give a flavor of what you’ve learned and couple of examples. Then, I want to talk about a couple other key issues before we close.

James Arthur Smith:
Well, let’s start with the Kampachi, for example, which is similar to king fish. So you have in the jack family, Seriola lalandi, Seriola rivoliana, Seriola quinta, something. These jacks are all cousins. They can be raised in very similar conditions generally. So there’s a Kampachi farm that I spent eight years working with in the Sea of Cortez. They started by capturing a couple of wild-caught fish, this wild almaco Kampachi. In Mexico, they call it Pez Fuerte.
They catch this wild fish. They put them into a land-based pool, about 15 at a time into these pools. The pool is in an indoor building where they regulate the amount of light and the temperature of the water to trick them into thinking its spawning season. When they spawn, the fertilized eggs float up to the top. The fertilized eggs are set aside. They’re raised, cultivated on rotifer, sea-monkeys, and a super healthy diet until the fingerlings are large enough to be put back in the ocean. So with 15 fish at a time in these land-based pools, over the last, let’s call it, five years, a hundred wild-caught fish have been taken out of the ocean, and they’ve produced a million fish or more from each fish producing hundreds of thousands of offspring.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Wow.

James Arthur Smith:
So the model is totally regenerative where you can take a wild-caught fish…

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Like Genghis Khan.

James Arthur Smith:
Yes. He spread his seed everywhere far and wide. Exactly. Fish in the wild have this survival mechanism. They are producing sometimes hundreds of thousands if not a million seed offspring, and in nature, only 1% will survive. But in aquaculture, you can create survival rates as much as 90% or even higher, 99%. As long as those fish are being fed a GMO-free, antibiotic-free, hormone-free diet, raised in deep water, open ocean pens, low density, lots of current, it’s a beautiful way to raise fish. You pair it then with some algaes like the kelps and the shellfish in proximity, they’re cleaning the water, they’re sequestering the carbon, and it’s a synergistic way to work in the ocean. We’re working with a farm in Peru that’s raising these beautiful scallops that are raised not on the sea floor.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah. I just got some. I’m going to have them tonight for dinner, by the way.

James Arthur Smith:
You’re going to love them. They’re sweet. They’re sushi-grade. They come in the half-shell. You literally can just thaw them out, hit them with a little bit of olive oil, salt, citrus, and just have them raw like that Peruvian style. You can cook them. I would recommend not overcooking them. If anything, you just kind of want to sear the outer edge for textural contrast, but you want to capture the raw omega-3s because these are literally taking… They’re just filtering the water. They’re just taking nutrients from the mid-water column, filtering it, and turning it into this beautiful, luscious, omega-rich piece of protein.
When they’re creating those shells, they are sequestering carbon from the ocean, from the atmosphere, mitigating against ocean acidification, sequestering carbon. They’re hanging lanterns, so they’re hanging in the mid-water column in these lantern baskets. They’re not on the ocean floor. So they’re actually creating a really rich ecosystem that creates a little habitat for a myriad of other little species. Fish, and shrimp, and all these other organisms will be living around there. So these types of farms are part of the solution. If we go back to the Seaspiracy story, they talked about aquaculture as this bad thing. Their objective was not to highlight any solutions. Their objectives, just like they did with Cowspiracy, was to just have a vegan solution.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah, have people all riled up.

James Arthur Smith:
Right? Yeah, yeah.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Right, right, right, right.

James Arthur Smith:
There are solutions, and what we’re trying to do with Seatopia is not say that everything is bad. We’re just saying vote for your dollar for food systems that are in line with your values and help support a transition to a blue economy because we’re on the blue planet. There is a lot of blue space. If we can use that to efficiently build a relationship with this planet that is symbiotic and help regenerate those systems, those ecosystems, and turn on those carbon sinks, it can be a Seatopia on this planet. We can do it right. It starts with people just caring enough to vote with their dollars because every single day, three times a day, we’re spending money on all these food systems that are just canola and soy. We can do better. So how do we buy foods that are one step better? I’m not saying it has to be perfect today, but take little steps, vote for the better ones, and care.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Amazing. It’s incredible. I mean, it’s really quite incredible because you’re mapping out a vision, which is a more utopian idea of how do we live in harmony with the oceans, how do we generate food for us in ways that are good for us and good for the planet. Honestly, before I came upon you, I’ve seen it done in bits and pieces, but to really have the scope and vision that you have is quite refreshing and hopeful.
A couple of things I want to talk about. One was policy issues that are obstructing this and what we need to do to fix that. Two is the issue around the supply chain of food that you need to feed these fish because that’s a problematic area. I mean, it’s great to do it properly, but it matters what you’re feeding them. Feeding them soy, and corn, and canola, and all this stuff, that’s really bad news. So how do we create a sustainable and healthy supply chain for these farm fish to eat because we’re not only what we’re eating, we’re eating whatever we are eating ate?

James Arthur Smith:
100%.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Right?

James Arthur Smith:
Absolutely, absolutely. So should we address policy? Policy is a big one because we have these organizations like NOAH that is trying to create sustainable oceans and economies that are healthy, healthy waterfronts. NOAH, for years, has been trying to get aquaculture permitted concessions in continental United States. Frankly, they’ve been blocked for the last 20 years. If we look at California, for example, there’s no aquaculture permits for fin Fish that have been approved.
Policy has been blocked, even though this is a government organization, by environmental groups. I think that it’s this black and white perspective that Seaspiracy and films like that put out there that it’s all bad. Well, we have examples of muscle farms, and scallop farms, and oyster farms creating these resilient habitats. We have examples of kelp farms, but what are people eating? Every day, people are buying salmon, right? So how do we marry and support policy that says if you want a concession for a thin fish aquaculture, it has to have a symbiotic partnership in a kelp and a shellfish farm, and have the right controls in place to monitor for and improve the environment. That’s absolutely possible, and there’s examples of it happening in other parts of the world. Let’s get it local.
There are examples of US-based aquaculture projects on land that are doing a great job recirculating aquaculture systems and large hydroponic systems. We’re working with some people in the Midwest that have a huge aquaculture system that the effluent then feeds all of their hydroponic lettuces, and the whole thing is tied together. It’s really beautiful. It’s also still relatively expensive to do that sort of farming.
The oceans are, in theory, a great way to raise fish because the fish are floating. They’re not holding up their body weight, so they’re efficiently creating protein. They’re not using any land resources, not using any fresh water. So if done right, we can build very robust healthy food systems in the ocean. So I think we need policy that supports a resilient food system where we’re not importing all of our resources from around the world, where we can site it locally, have farms in each geographic region that supports those economies and those communities. So, yeah. Policy is a big one.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah.

James Arthur Smith:
It’s been a roadblock. It’s been a roadblock to scalability. If you look at a macro level, in the world, the United States rates 17th in the world for aquaculture production. We’re still importing massive quantities of seafood from around the world. So because of this deficit, in some regards, you could say that it builds resiliency for our economy and for our food systems to have our own dependency. It also just makes sense to have these foods being produced closer to the markets.
Then, the future is bringing a lot of it into vertical land-based farms as well. There’s a lot of progress happening there, but again, the cost of producing it by the… From day one, aquaculture in the ocean was already a vertical farming and working in three dimensions. So you have this massive biomass potential. Then, replicating it that on land, still, you’re using the water and the land resources, but that’s a thing.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah. Well, your work is really tremendous. Yeah. Tell us a little bit about feed, and I want to tell people about how to get this because it’s so great.

James Arthur Smith:
So the transition of feed and aquaculture really went from, as we talked about before, fish meal and fish oil produced from anchovies and sardines being ground up, and then extracted for oil and whatnot. Then, the FPO and a couple other organizations said, “Let’s reduce our dependence on wild-feed wild fish and produce those oils and proteins with something else.” The most affordable things were these GMO corn and soys who are already being produced in industrial scale quantities and subsidized.
So those components started making their way into feed, and you started seeing actually in aquaculture studies and lab test the omega-3, omega-6 ratios starting to change because when you start reducing fish oil and fish meal and replacing it with canola and soy, the fish… You can’t go too far because the fish, it digests it just like you and I, gets inflamed, and has the same exact responses, and it started to go down, but they’re doing it to address a certain need. What we’re seeing now is more and more support for the base level organisms. So microalgae is where fish originally got their omega-3s.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah. Right.

James Arthur Smith:
Sardines and anchovies don’t produce omega-3s.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
No.

James Arthur Smith:
They’re produced through microalgae. These little, tiny, beautiful, incredible creatures. So these tiny, little creatures are producing the omega-3s. Now, what’s happening is there’s enough demand to support the commercialization, the economies of scale to make it affordable for feeds to actually be produced with algae-based feeds and other novel things like insect-based feeds.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah.

James Arthur Smith:
It’s not just the traditional chlorellas and spirulinas, which are still relatively expensive. There’s really unique ones like schizochycea is this species of algae that grows in mangrove estuary environments that breaks down plant matter, and in its original ecosystem, you would have a flood tide, and then there would be an abundance of plant material, and then the tide would ebb back out, and then it had nothing to consume. So it evolved too quickly, metabolized a bunch of this plant matter, and then store it as omega-3s. This particular algae produces both EPA and DHA.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
DHA. Yeah.

James Arthur Smith:
It’s beautiful because now you can grow and ferment these in industrial scale productions and have a concentration of omega-3s in the form of EPA and DHA, and specifically formulate feeds that are going to boost omega-3 levels in fish so that you can quantifiably, in a lab test, show a salmon raised on this algae-based feed can have a higher level of omega-3 than the average wild-caught salmon, and you can do it in a way where it doesn’t have any PCBs or any other heavy metals.
This model is happening now. It’s just a matter of whether or not consumers are going to demand it, they’re going to put up their hands and vote for it because it’s still a financial thing. It’s a return on investment. A farm that is currently selling 99% of its supply into a market like a Costco or Whole Foods where those things aren’t being valued, they’re not going to invest in that. Right? So consumers need to stand up and say, “I want the algae-based feeds. I don’t want soy and corn. I want no GMOs. I don’t want antibiotics. I want the super foods.” Right? So how do we produce these super foods?

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah.

James Arthur Smith:
I think we’re starting to see that. Right? That’s what we’re trying to do with Seatopia is support the best farms in the world that are actually making those innovations, that every year, have changed the ratios and what they’re feeding their fish, and improving it every single… with every cohort.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
It’s quite an amazing story, and your story is fantastic. Thank God you created this company. I think people can learn more about it. They can go to seatopia.fish. Yes, that’s a domain name, seatopia.fish.

James Arthur Smith:
Dot-fish.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah, dot-fish. Right?

James Arthur Smith:
Yeah, yeah.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
It’s just a direct-to-consumer way to get really healthy seafood. It’s really delicious right to your door. I’m a huge fan. Honestly, I had done the podcast because I got a box of this stuff. I’m like, “Wow, this is a game-changer.” It’s what I’ve been looking for, for the last 30 years, but haven’t seen. There are little pockets here and there, but you made it really accessible and friendly. The website is fantastic. People should check it out. You can learn about the whole story of everything there. More than you want to know probably, but it’s really fantastic. I’m just so happy that you’re doing this work and have created what you’ve created, so thank you for doing it. Thank you for being on the podcast.

James Arthur Smith:
Thank you. Thank you, Mark. Thank you for creating the platform for people to learn about these things. It’s a consumer demand education thing, for sure.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
It’s exciting. It’s really exciting. By the way, anybody listening who liked what they heard and are interested in learning more, go to the website, seatopia.fish. Share this podcast with your friends and family everywhere because I think everybody needs to know about this. The more people doing this, the more this industry will grow. The more it will be available, the lower the cost, and it’ll all be a virtuous cycle, which will be good for you and good for the planet. Thank you. If you love this, just make sure you just keep sharing, and sharing, and sharing because I think this is a really important podcast. Hopefully, we’ll see you next time on The Doctor’s Farmacy.
Speaker 1:
Hi, everyone. I hope you enjoyed this week’s episode. Just a reminder that this podcast is for educational purposes only. This podcast is not a substitute for professional care by a doctor or other qualified medical professional. This podcast is provided on the understanding that it does not constitute medical or other professional advice or services. If you’re looking for help in your journey, seek out a qualified medical practitioner. If you’re looking for a functional medicine practitioner, you can visit ifm.org and search their Find A Practitioner database. It’s important that you have someone in your corner who’s trained, who’s a licensed healthcare practitioner, and can help you make changes, especially when it comes to your health.

If you are looking for personalized medical support, we highly recommend contacting Dr. Hyman’s UltraWellness Center in Lenox, Massachusetts today.

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