Review Business People

Seaspiracy, Total BS or Is There Some Truth to It? This Is What a Biologist With 35+ Years in the Seafood Industry Had to Say

I reached out to Riviera Seafood Club to get their take on Producer Kip Andersen’s Seaspiracy on Netflix. You may know the Producer for his two previous works ‘Cowspiracy’ and ‘What the Health.’ Although, based on the research, I do not expect to see a Vegspiracy or Quinoaspiracy because that might go against Kip’s agenda.

Just like Yelpers out for clout and internet fandom (yes, even on Yelp), Netflix may also attract the same types. Except they are Documentarians to Producer types with agendas. The motivations may go beyond making a buck, and it may be a blatant social movement ploy (like ones that rhymes with schmeegen or schmegetarian).

Photo Description: the Seaspiracy Netflix poster. The written copy says "a Netflix Original Documentary, Watch Now." The image is of a giant fishing net filled with fish and a globe of the Earth ensnared in the net. This post is a Seaspiracy review to this Netflix documentary.
I don’t know about you, but bro, what about 5G towers? and chemtrails? (I miss the old days of conspiracies).

Although, on the flip-side, they really might have some validity to what they are saying, which is why I am pulling in the big guns (to sort through the points made). I got one when I reached out to Riviera Seafood Club (RSC) after seeing their posted response on Instagram to the documentary Seaspiracy. I jumped at the chance because I had seen the sheer amount of stupid a one-sided story can trigger in a comments section, which is what RSC is up against. So I offered an extra-hand to get the message out because they are up against Netflix’s massive audience. How massive? As of 2020, according to Statista, Netflix has 203.67 million paid subscribers, so RSC and Oishii-Desu are like a microspeck of plastic in the ocean in comparison.

Mr. Andersen’s Batting Average

As for Kip’s entertainment value, audiences like his documentaries based on IMDB. Although after Cowspiracy, his agenda may be more obvious to a lot of media and other types of organizations/entities.

“Meat, fish, poultry, and dairy are fattening us up, giving us cancer and Type-2 diabetes, and poisoning us with toxins, Kip Andersen, the film’s co-director and star, tells us.”

– Kip Andersen, Via Vox.com “Debunking What the Health, the buzzy new documentary that wants you to be a vegan.
TitleIMDBMy Cherry Picked Consensus
Seaspiracy (2021)8.3New York times: well, the New York Times has always been a somewhat credible source, so when they say “A Netflix documentary takes viewers on a voyage around the world rooting out the many causes of ocean life decimation, but its rhetorical methods distract from its revelations,” you really do have to be skeptical of Seaspiracy due to their approach (here are 3 types of methods). The article is by Natalia Winkleman, March 24th, 2021.
The Guardian: “Seaspiracy: Netflix documentary accused of misrepresentation by participants. NGOs and experts quoted in film say it contains ‘misleading’ claims, erroneous statistics and out-of-context interviews.” By Karen McVeigh.
What the Health (2017)7.4Vox.com: “Debunking What the Health, the buzzy new documentary that wants you to be vegan
The film on Netflix mischaracterizes what we know about food and disease.” The title of Vox.com article by Julia Belluz.
Scientific American: “Suffice it to say the film includes a lot of facts but also a lot of opinion, anecdotes, unsubstantiated claims, misleading statements, and a few outright falsehoods. Just because someone has MD or PhD after their name does not guarantee that everything that comes out of their mouth is reliable.”  Nutrition Diva Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS, is a board-certified, licensed nutritionist and professionally trained chef.
Cowspiracy: the Sustainability Secret (2014)8.2Forbes: “A 2019 Forbes article quotes Steven Chu, the Nobel Prize winner and former U.S. Secretary of Energy, stating: “Let me say it again: agriculture and land-use generates more greenhouse gas emissions than power generation.” The article references the 2009 Worldwatch Institute article that estimates livestock are responsible for at least 51% of human-induced greenhouse gas emissions.” – Via Forbes “Meat And Agriculture Are Worse For The Climated Than Power Generation, Steven Chu Says by Jeff McMahon.
UCUSA.org (Union for Concerned Scientists): Movie Review: There’s a Vast Cowspiraccy about Climate Change. By Doug Boucher, Scientific Adviser, climate and energy.
Photo Description: Kip Andersen Instagram page.

If you want to read more, there are several sources responding to the documentary. They have all made statements regarding the accuracy and the level of neutrality of the journalism:

The Kip/A.U.M Films & Media Mission Statement

What are Kip Andersens intentions, well read his Mission Statement below:

“A.U.M. Films and Media’s mission is to effectively and efficiently represent a harmonious voice for all life on this planet, through all forms of media. We create, consult, and support all types of media projects, from film, journalism, online outlets, to music and stage plays, that spread a creative message for peace and compassion for all beings. We take on project submissions and ideas that will have a direct result in promoting the next stage in human evolution. We feel the best way to actualize world peace and to make our planet survive, and even thrive, is through a movement towards compassionate co-existence.”

– A.U.M. Films & Media (www.aumfilms.org)

Who is Rex Ito of Riviera Seafood Club and His Response to Seaspiracy

Kip already has a massive platform, so Rex Ito is getting the remainder of the time/focus (via an email from Blake Ito) – everything below is in his own words.

Photo Description: Rex (pops) and Blake Ito are standing on the deck of fishing boat on a pier.
Poppa Rex (left) and Blake Ito (right) aka “Ito Taquito” at the docks of San Pedro, CA. Locally wild-caught offload of mixed pelagic species, mainly Swordfish, Opah, and Bluefin Tuna.

“Experienced Owner with a demonstrated history of working in the wholesale industry. Began his career working as a marine biologist, a pioneer in commercial shrimp farming. Skilled in developing seafood and aquaculture operations from concept to market, with specific experience in high quality tuna, bluefin tuna ranching, and ocean farming of striped bass.”

Rex Ito, Owner at Prime Time Seafood, Los Angeles, California

Rex Ito’s Credentials via LinkedIn

  • Owner, Prime Time Seafood, Los Angeles, CA, Feb 1989 – Present (32 years, 3 months).
  • Founding Partner, Pacifico Aquaculture, Ensenada, Mexico, Feb 2001-Nov 2017 (16 years, 10 months): Founding partner Bajamachi SA de CV 2001-2009: Built and operated bluefin tuna ranching operation. Founding partner of Pacifico Aquaculture 2009-2017, sustainable finfish ocean cage farming operation at Isla Todos Santos, Ensenada. Currently exclusive import and distribution partner for Pacifico Aquaculture.
  • Marine Biologist, Commercial Shrimp Farming, Marifarms, TAMU, ENACA, Fricmares, Ecuador, Dec 1981 – Dec 1987 (6 years, 1 month): Marifarms, Panama City Florida 1981, Texas A&M Shrimp hatchery, Galveston, Texas 1982, Head Biologist, Pioneered commercial shrimp hatchery technology in Ecuador, built and operated 1,000 hectare shrimp farm and hatchery 1983-87

Rex Ito’s Perspective/Response (Seaspiracy Review):

Without a doubt Riviera Seafood Club condemns ALL the appalling and gruesome crimes highlighted in the piece, from slave labor to poor practices in fish farms.

Some topics of real concerns regarding the oceans and fisheries were raised in the “documentary.” Without a doubt Riviera Seafood Club condemns ALL the appalling and gruesome crimes highlighted in the piece, from slave labor to poor practices in fish farms. That being said, the entire piece was filled with sensationalistic journalism, not backed by real science, and falsely depicted the whole industry together with the “worst offenders.” The data on which the filmmaker based his shocking claims was either very dated, over-exaggerated, or just plain made up. The “experts” referenced in the film were extremists, whose data is borderline quackery.

Considering that 3/4 of the planet is covered with water, and that aquatic plants and animals require MUCH less food and energy to grow and survive, without a doubt the future of food for the human race will come from ocean farming of fish, shellfish, and plants.

What was glaringly missing from the piece was, “if you’re going to leave the oceans alone (a truly implausible case) and not eat any wild or farmed fish or seafood, what should we eat, and what are the effects on our planet to produce food on land?” Land-based protein and plant production have many negative effects on the planet. Plants uptake poison dioxins, and bioconcentrate in cows, pigs, and chickens. Considering that 3/4 of the planet is covered with water, and that aquatic plants and animals require MUCH less food and energy to grow and survive, without a doubt the future of food for the human race will come from ocean farming of fish, shellfish, and plants.

I can’t speak to every subject that was touched on in the piece, but as a biologist that worked nearly 10 years in marine aquaculture, and a veteran of over 30 years in the fresh tuna business, many of those years working specifically with bluefin tuna, there are a few glaring “facts” that were brought up that need to be clarified:

“A bluefin tuna is sold for 3 MILLION dollars in Japan.” Time and time again the “million dollar tuna” is publicized, promoting the MYTH that bluefin tuna are being fished out of our world’s oceans by greedy Japanese fishermen…it’s stereotyping and insulting.

For the record, ONE bluefin tuna, ONE day of the year–January 1st, is ceremoniously “bid up” in the Tokyo fish auction to an outrageous price.

In Japanese culture the New Year is the most important holiday of the year. The reasoning behind this tradition is that “if the first tuna of the year is sold for a high price, we’ll have high prices for the rest of the year,” and sets the tone for the rest of the year. Similarly, in Japanese households, they put out the best spread of food on the New Year (eat well on the 1st, eat well the rest of the year…). BUT unfortunately over and over again this cool tradition of pricing the New Year’s “chosen” bluefin tuna is distorted and extrapolated by groups with an agenda against fishing, and frankly—against Asians.

“Bluefin tuna have been fished to near extinction, and are at only 3% of their natural capacity.”  This is misleading and OLD NEWS.  In truth, the recovery of bluefin tuna stocks worldwide has become a fisheries success story. 

The latest news from the International Scientific Committee, (ISC) the world’s premier authority on tuna fisheries, at the current rate of recovery, the 2020 stock assessment of Northern Pacific Bluefin:

  • There is 100% assurance Pacific Bluefin will have reached sustainability (20% SSB*) in 2024, and likely will reach this important benchmark already in 2021.  
  • There is 100% assurance this same fishery will reach “unfished” levels by 2034, and likely to reach this goal by 2026.  “UNFISHED” levels—meaning a virgin ocean before any tuna in the ocean were caught…

TERMINOLOGY

Also, to be accurate, the 3% mentioned in the piece refers to the *Spawning Stock Biomass, or SSB, which represent adult individuals that can mate, reproduce, and create offspring for future generationsIt does NOT represent the total biomass of bluefin tuna in the ocean.  As a reference, scientists consider a 20% SSB as a healthy benchmark, a sustainable makeup of spawning age adults among the total biomass by which many of the commercial tuna species such as yellowfin tuna, skipjack tuna, bigeye tuna, and bluefin tuna are measured.

PURE JOURNALISTIC SENSATIONALISM

In any case, within my circle of knowledge and expertise, the filmmaker basically used provenly false claims as his basis of “fact,” and then made wild leaps of extrapolation—or in some instances, just makes stuff up, to reach stunning conclusions to shock and impress/mislead the public.  Having a science background and worked as a marine biologist in commercial aquaculture since the 1980s, I have first-hand experience in seeing good and bad examples of wild capture, aquaculture, marine mammal protection, and IUU,.  Unfortunately throughout the piece the same formula was used—take superficial and examples of the worst case scenario, and generalize these horrendous acts as the “standard” in all of the seafood and aquaculture industry.  It is very misleading to say the least. 

From >40 years of working in the seafood industry, there is one principle I go by, and have taught my children:  QUALITY is where it’s at.  Good quality seafood is worth a lot, and poor quality seafood is unappetizing, gets people sick, and is worth nothing.  In fact, in all of business and in life (especially in seafood), good quality products, work, and services last, whereas faulty and unethical practices never last.  In many ways it’s a self-regulated industry.  I often say, “you have to 20 things right out of 20 to be successful in this business.”  It is literally impossible to produce quality seafood time after time if you don’t practice sustainable methods, and pay fair wages to your workers.

Without a doubt there are issues in all that the filmmaker brings up, but BY NO MEANS do they represent the wild and farmed seafood industry practices as a whole.

BLUEFIN TUNA—A FISHERY MANAGEMENT SUCCESS STORY

“…by leaving so much of the world’s bluefins unfished for nearly three generations, the repopulation of bluefin tuna in the world has been phenomenal.”

TIMELINE AND THE HISTORY OF THE RECOVERY OF BLUEFIN TUNA STOCKS WORLDWIDE—THE FACTS

  • In the past Bluefin tuna WERE being overfished worldwide, reaching perilously low numbers going into 2004-2009, as indicated in “Seaspriracy.”  There was a “gold rush” of sorts happening in the relatively new bluefin tuna ranching industry, where wild bluefin are captured live, kept in ocean pens, fed and fattened, then harvested and sold in prime condition. where the highly-prized “toro” being paid handsome prices in the Japanese auction.
  • Beginning in 2007, the alarms went off amongst all parties interested in bluefin tuna.  Scientists, NGOs, and the fishing industry itself reacted by  up to 70% reduction in capture, FULL TRACEABILITY, requiring ICCAT documents for each and every bluefin tna caught and exported from any country in the world.
  • Coupled with all the measures being taken to protect bluefins, the Great Recession beginning in the fall of 2007 through almost 2010 caused a dramatic decrease in price for the prized bluefin, down to a third of the pre-recession prices.  Nearly ALL bluefin ranches worldwide went out of business, or barely survived.  Even to this day the prices have never climbed up to even half the values from the past.
  • Bluefin tuna mature in 5 years, and each female can spawn tens of millions of eggs.  Fast-forward 15 years, by leaving so much of the world’s bluefins unfished for nearly three generations, the repopulation of bluefin tuna in the world has been phenomenal.  As mentioned in Seaspiracy, a well-managed fishery CAN recover to abundant stocks.
  • The most abundant population of Pacific Bluefin Tuna in 50 years. Currently, the sheer quantities of bluefin off Mexico and California have never been seen since the 1950’s through 1970’s.  

To give you an idea of the relative abundance and health of the stock of ranched Pacific bluefin from which Prime Time Seafood, and Riviera Seafood Club are supplied:

  • In 2006 there were approximately 11 bluefin ranching companies/concessions, each operating separate farms with a “suggested” total quota for the industry of 10,000 metric tons.  Bluefin started “running” as early as April-May, halfway down the Baja California peninsula, and they would migrate north up through northern Baja, California, and by the fall months could be off of Northern California and even Oregon.  It took the Mexican ranching industry 3-4 months of fishing, involving upwards of 15 giant purse seiners, to catch 8,000 metric tons of bluefin weighing 10-40 kilos.  The tuna fishing effort to fill the cages started in June and lasted through August.
  • For the past 4-5 seasons, bluefin tuna are found YEAR ROUND off the coasts of Mexico and California, and all Mexican ranches operate under a strict 3,000 metric ton quota.  The fishing season starts in the first days of January, and lasts 2 WEEKS.  The  sizes range from 30-200 kilos, the average capture size over the past 3 years has been 70-90 kilos per fish.

Sportsfishing in California and Mexico have also been experiencing by far the best bluefin tuna fishing in decades.

WHALES AND DOLPHINS

The common practice of dolphins dying as bycatch in tuna nets ended back in the 1970s with the advent of the “backdown” procedure—that allows dolphins captured together with tuna schools escape from the net, and 100% observer coverage

As a biologist involved in the tuna industry, there is OVERWHELMING history and evidence that through Marine Mammal Protection programs that have been in place since the 1970s, whale, dolphin, and sea lion populations have been growing for decades.  Contrary to the film, nearly all pelagic dolphin species stocks are healthy. 

  • The common practice of dolphins dying as bycatch in tuna nets ended back in the 1970s with the advent of the “backdown” procedure—that allows dolphins captured together with tuna schools escape from the net, and 100% observer coverage, which has been the standard in the tuna industry–worldwide for decades.  Again, this is OLD NEWS.  I have many colleagues who are lifelong tuna biologists in charge of tuna observer programs throughout Latin America.  The claim the filmmaker makes that all observers fear for their lives is nonsense.

To claim dolphins are being killed in great numbers by tuna purse seiners is not only patently untrue, but it’s a slap in the face to thousands of dedicated tuna biologists, observers, tuna captains, deckhands, processors and distributors that have been maintaining the balance of sustainability of the fishery with the livelihoods of millions of people that depend on the ocean for their way of life.

  • Likewise, the world’s whale populations have thrived over the past decades.  Current whaling operations are a FRACTION of what they once were.  The harvest of pilot whales depicted in the film, as barbaric and shocking as shown, takes place in very, very, select places in the world.  Whaling is a relic of the past will never come back.  By no means is there a massive active whale fishery in the world.

FOLLOW THE MONEY

Yes, as the film says, let’s follow the money.  

In regards to bluefin tuna, the price of fresh, sashimi-quality bluefin tuna has maintained at historically low levels since post Recession.  The reason for that is simple: there is more supply than demand.  At the same time there has been phenomenally strong rebuilding of the wild stock of bluefin tuna worldwide, due to extraordinary efforts from all parties involved.

Extremist environmental groups survive on donations.  Donations from well-meaning people who are passionate about nature and the oceans.  But the heartstrings and pocketbooks of the public can only be opened when “the sky’s falling…”  The sky is NOT falling in regards to the future of fisheries and especially the future of aquaculture. 

In reality, MANY of the world’s fisheries have been well-managed for many years—tuna being one of them.

Unlike the film’s depiction of tigers and pandas, a panda does not spawn 10 million eggs…”

Also, the resiliency of the fishes in our oceans can be quite astounding. Many fisheries have been properly managed from the brink of collapse.  That is the power of many species like tuna, sardine, and other species that spawn millions of eggs.  Unlike the film’s depiction of tigers and pandas, a panda does not spawn 10 million eggs…

The film focused on less than 5% of the wild fishery and aquaculture producers of the world, the worst offenders—to purposely produce a shocking piece of sensationalist journalism to create fear and hatred.

In the end, MY MESSAGE, from a seafood and aquaculture industry professional, is that like ALL the foods we chose to eat, I suggest you investigate the sources, the farms, the processors, the ingredients.  As in most food industries, there are a majority of good players and a few bad players.  Do your homework, or buy from purveyors that study and vet their sources. 

What a travesty to purposely misrepresent a whole way of life for millions and millions of people throughout the world—people who CARE about the oceans, and have spent years, decades, lifetimes on the water, in TRUE dedication to the sea and the world.  


Find Out More About Riviera Seafood Club, the Compassionate Co-existence Company and the Ito Fam

Going back through their Facebook posts, this pic (below) and caption comes up and is dated December 14th, 2020 (Seaspiracy was added March 24, 2021): “Always check your sources! 🎣 Here we have Matt, Claire and friends in the Bluefin pens, filming subsurface action shots for an old VR project. Being born into this industry, we have been working our whole lives trying to educate people about Pacific Bluefin Tuna. From their incredible biology, to responsible methods of husbandry, to final culinary prep, we are here to share all that we know.”

Photo Description: about 5 divers in a bluefin tuna pen.
Who doesn’t want to swim with the bluefin tuna.
Photo Description: The Ito family. The Riviera Seafood Club is a family owned and operated business (4 kids). The family is pictured next to the ocean atop a trail.
That’s awfully close to the ledge, but that’s how Japanese American/LatinX families roll.

Thanks Blake Ito (Managing Partner/Business Development ) for providing the information I had requested from your post, and if you would like to learn more, follow them below or click on their website link.

Stalk or Follow Riviera Seafood Club

My Conclusion, My 2 Cents Because This is the Internet

I have always touted/said that most people act as though they know what they are talking about; I know, I know nothing. Unfortunately, the bulk of people make up the 70% of clueless morons who fill up 98% of the comments section with their feelings, and listening to the experts is not an option (everybody is an expert on the internet).

Some of these types make it onto platforms such as Netflix, which is a massive soapbox for many of these individuals and issues. Except, unlike the internet, there is no ‘comment section’ on Netflix to offer an opposing perspective. That is the one reason this microplastic sized blog is offering the other side of the issue the size of Texas. Also FYI, that Best Buy salesperson is just reading off the packaging and some documentary producers are all about you eating more kale.

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