Why Wild-Caught Fish Isn’t Necessarily Better, The Truth About Farmed Fish, How To Get Guilt-Free, Gourmet Seafood, Delicious DIY Sushi & Sashimi Recipes & Much More!

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A few times in the past month, I've mentioned that I've been destroying sushi restaurants for myself, forever.

OK, maybe a bit of an over-exaggeration, but, basically, my family and I have been making our own amazing, mouthwatering, super-clean sushi and sashimi in my own kitchen now, thanks to a new service I discovered called “SEATOPIA.”

SEATOPIArecently featured in Forbes magazine—delivers (literally) on its promise to make “eating and exploring truly sustainable gourmet seafood easier and more fun.” How? By delivering, like, essentially the Butcher Box of seafood, award-winning seafood direct from artisan regenerative farms, right to their customers’ doorsteps, all in 100% plastic-free and styrofoam-free packaging—100% transparency, 100% sushi-grade, 100% antibiotic-free, certified sustainable, and mercury-free. Plus each shipment includes QR code scannable recipes from celebrity and Michelin Star chefs.

Over the last eight years, the owner, and my guest on today's show—James Arthur Smith—has been personally visiting aquaculture farms, eating the feed the fish eat, swimming in, under, and around the grow-out pens, and lab testing the harvested products to quantity claims. Through SEATOPIA, James is endeavoring to revolutionize the seafood supply chain and empower health-conscious consumers to directly support artisan farms, helping to foster regenerative seafood practices. He thinks that despite the information shared in documentaries like SEASPIRACY, there are a handful of success stories of sustainable fisheries and innovative aquaculture projects regenerating the oceans while producing some of the healthiest protein on the planet.

Currently, in the Sea of Cortez, Baja Mexico, James Arthur Smith and his wife have been living aboard their vintage sailboat for nearly a decade. Immersed in the ocean since childhood, at age six, James Arthur became the youngest junior lifeguard to complete the La Jolla, California open ocean swim challenge. At age 12, he began volunteering at the Chula Vista Marine Science Discovery Center where a steelhead trout breeding and hatchery program sparked his interest in the principles of regenerative aquaculture and marine conservation. While James' childhood dream of being a Shamu trainer has since evolved, a commitment to connecting with nature and protecting marine environments has been consistent.

For the last eight years, James Arthur has been connecting boutique aquaculture projects from around the world with award-winning farm-to-table restaurants. Through these relationships, James Arthur developed one of the most trusted wholesale seafood distribution businesses in Southern California catering to world-renowned farm-to-table restaurants and Michelin Star chefs. When Covid-19 closed restaurants, James Arthur switched his energy to developing a 100% plastic & styrofoam-free home delivery box for truly sustainable seafood. Today, SEATOPIA is revolutionizing the seafood supply chain by connecting home cooks with sushi-grade products directly from the world's best farms and has garnered a cult-like following from health-conscious foodies and environmentalists nationwide.

During our discussion, you'll discover:

-How SEATOPIA is the pescatarian version of Butcher Box…10:05

  • Product is blast-frozen (not flash-frozen) to allow freshness for months
  • Everything is sushi-grade
  • No plastic in the packaging—everything is compostable
  • Blast-frozen practice allows far more proteins to be retained than flash-frozen
  • Most fish in grocery stores have been frozen and defrosted several times prior to purchase
  • SEATOPIA (use code BENGREENFIELD20 to save $20) fish is defrosted at peak freshness and the most nutrients and taste possible

-How James got into the fish business…16:00

  • Worked at SeaWorld as a kid and fell in love with the species
  • Covid restaurant shutdowns enabled the launch of the home-based subscription service

-Sustainable vs. conventional fish farming practices…18:52

  • We eat grass-fed beef because we know where it was raised; same applies to farm-raised fish
  • Artisan aquaculture farms are focused on sustainably raised fish
  • Fish poop is a major problem to the aquaculture at large; there is no waste in nature
  • Too much of one type of animal in a small space is problematic
  • Fish don't naturally produce Omega 3s
  • You are what you eat
  • Majority of fisheries feed their fish corn and soy
  • Algae is the root of healthy fish (pelletized diet)

-How to avoid heavy metals and microplastic accumulation in farm-raised fish…31:07

  • Coal-fired power plants release microparticles of mercury into the ecosystem
  • Killer whales that have washed up on shore have mercury levels that are considered to be biohazards
  • Low trophic diet
  • Each vendor's product is tested for heavy metals prior to purchase, or as a condition of continued purchases
  • UC Davis did a study that found 1 in 4 fish have microplastics in them
  • We “romanticize” the idea of wild-caught fish without considering the implications of modern fishing practices on the environment

-James' thoughts on the SEASPIRACY documentary…38:05

  • “Vegan propaganda”
  • All doom and gloom with nothing on the shining examples of regenerative aquaculture throughout the world

-Food porn: Ben and James rave about SEATOPIA products…45:10

-James' top recipe he loves to share…1:01:50

  • Products that aren't overly cooked; rare in the middle
  • Cooking products from frozen
  • Crispy vs. raw middle

-How to get started ordering with SEATOPIA…1:04:45

-And much more…

Click here for the full written transcript of this podcast episode.

Resources mentioned in this episode:

– James Arthur Smith:

– Podcasts:

– Other Resources:

Upcoming Events:

Episode sponsors:

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Do you have questions, thoughts, or feedback for James Arthur Smith or me? Leave your comments below and one of us will reply!

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10 thoughts on “Why Wild-Caught Fish Isn’t Necessarily Better, The Truth About Farmed Fish, How To Get Guilt-Free, Gourmet Seafood, Delicious DIY Sushi & Sashimi Recipes & Much More!

  1. Sooo Delish!!!These instructions are very well written out. Printing is clean and easy to read.

  2. Maggie Napier says:

    This was so flavorful and surprisingly easy to make.This dish was mind blowingly delicious!!

  3. Kim Hafner says:

    Interesting episode but still not convinced farmed fish quality is anything comparable to wild caught. I was surprised James didn’t address that. Just look at salmon… farmed salmon would live a sedentary life whereas wild salmon are active hunters swimming upstream to spawn. Collagen protein in wild salmon typically have more crosslinking, so stronger collagen and firmer flesh. Farmed salmon typically contains much more fat than wild (up to 4x). With naturally firmer flesh and less fat to provide lubrication, wild salmon would often need to be cooked at lower temperatures (120 C vs 125 C) to prevent over cooking. I would love to learn more about the fish industry (wild and farmed) along with their fishes’ physical and nutritional characterization like omega 6: omega 3 ratios.

  4. Lucas McCarthy says:

    How can they call themselves the “ButcherBox of Seafood” when they’re charging over $50 in shipping costs for a single shipment ? That is the antithesis of ButcherBox. I’ll only be able to consider this when shipping costs are significant reduced. Extremely disappointing.

    1. Thank you for this feedback Lucas. You can also contact ButcherBox directly here: https://support.butcherbox.com/hc/en-us/requests/…

      1. Lucas says:

        Thanks for your reply Ben! I was referring to Seatopia shipping cost. I am a happy longtime subscriber to ButcherBox. I am hoping Seatopia will be able to realize economies of scale and reduce shipping costs in the future. It’s just hard for me to justify that coat. Nonetheless, fascinating podcast and really appreciate you opening my eyes to properly farmed fish. I always thought it was wild caught or nothing.

  5. W says:

    Great interview, sounds like a great company. Addressed most of my concerns with farming seafood –

    Things I felt were not addressed:
    1) Can pelletized algae really replace the diversity of nutrients in a wild fishes diet?
    2) Can a life in a pen create healthy fish bodies like the hunting, breeding and natural activity/movement of a wild fish?
    3) What about the environmental burden of shipping fish and cooling materials around the world?

  6. Steve says:

    Seaspiracy may or may not be a vegan thing, but the problems it highlights are very real. There are whole sections of the ocean where everything has been stripped out because the fishing boats yank up everything from the ocean floor in their nets. Coral, plants, young fish, everything. They come out into the ocean at night with lights that could power a small city. It’s a disaster that Americans with their cheap fish diets contribute to making. If Americans would pay up for quality Alaskan, Maine, etc fish, we would have a flow of ethically fished fish. But the Asians are the only ones who will commit to a contract to pay for the fish before it is caught. If the fishermen have to negotiate post catch, it is disaster for them. The fishermen in these regions cannot survive without these contracts. The high-quality Alaskan salmon liver (cods aren’t the only fish with livers) goes directly to Asia because the Asians are willing to give a purchase contract for all of it. Americans want to buy the cheapest fish, creating a huge problem. I ran into a Japanese buyer on the docks in Maine one night. He was waiting to coordinate the shipment of the fish when it arrived. The captain of the boat said the contracts from Japan had saved his family fishing business.

    Most fish farms are disgusting due to the high levels of antibiotic resistant pathogens and the heavy metals/PCBs in the cheap feed. The fish farms should be inland, far from the ocean, so they at least cannot contaminate the ocean. I stopped eating most seafood after doing due diligence at a shrimp farm. Now I mostly eat what I catch or cook some farm raised mammal or hunt.

  7. Michael Whitener says:

    This was an especially good podcast, even by Ben’s high standards. Ben asks some great questions, and James’s integrity really shines through. I listened during a commute and immediately signed up for a Seatopia subscription box when I got home.

    One burning question, however: can either of you recommend a great Japanese “single bevel” knife for making sashimi and crudos? (I didn’t even know knives came with multi-bevels, so I’m out of my depth.)

  8. Brian Dennis says:

    It sounds amazing but at $35 or so a Ib for farm raised fish, I’ll pass.

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