Spencer Roberts (@Unpop_Science) is an ecologist, photovoltaic engineer, musician, and writer who specializes in exposing corporate science propaganda and greenwashing.
What We Discuss with Spencer Roberts:
- Is there really such a thing as sustainable seafood in industrial nations?
- Logistically, how “dolphin safe” can a can of tuna be (and how endangered is that tuna)?
- Will the escalating amount of microplastics found in seafood lead to human extinction?
- Is the climate-rescuing promise of “regenerative” ranching a complete racket?
- Is your fish dinner financing slave labor?
- And much more…
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While the continuing consequences of human impact on the environment are regularly making front-page news, few among us want to be the villain of the narrative. The companies that supply us with the things we need — from laundry detergent to gasoline to seafood — know this and want to assure us that these resources were responsibly procured and passed along to us in a way that relieves us of the burden of complicity. But often these companies are really just “greenwashing” — making partially true but exaggerated claims about the sustainability of their products that ultimately make us feel like we’re helping save the planet just by buying them. Investopedia tells us that “Greenwashing is a play on the term ‘whitewashing,’ which means using misleading information to gloss over bad behavior.”
On this episode, we’re joined by Spencer Roberts, an ecologist, photovoltaic engineer, musician, and writer who specializes in exposing corporate science propaganda and greenwashing in publications like The Ecologist, WIRED, Jacobin, and Rift Magazine. Here, we discuss why the claim of seafood being sustainably fished in industrialized nations is largely a myth, the dangers of microplastics found in seafood on human existence itself, the climate-rescuing promise of “regenerative” ranching being an illusion, the widespread practice of human trafficking and slavery in seafood harvesting, and much more.
Please Scroll Down for Featured Resources and Transcript!
Please note that some of the links on this page (books, movies, music, etc.) lead to affiliate programs for which The Jordan Harbinger Show receives compensation. It’s just one of the ways we keep the lights on around here. Thank you for your support!
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This Episode Is Sponsored By:
- Glenfiddich: Find out more about the Glenfiddich #Richest25 here
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Miss the conversation we had with scambuster Coffeezilla? Catch up with episode 368: Coffeezilla | How to Expose Fake Guru Scams here!
Thanks, Spencer Roberts!
If you enjoyed this session with Spencer Roberts, let him know by clicking on the link below and sending him a quick shout out at Twitter:
And if you want us to answer your questions on one of our upcoming weekly Feedback Friday episodes, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Resources from This Episode:
- Spencer Roberts | Twitter
- Unpopular Science | Medium
- ‘Bluewashing’ Seafood Won’t Make the World More Green by Jan Dutkiewicz and Spencer Roberts | Wired
- Greenwashing | Investopedia
- How ‘Dolphin Safe’ Is Canned Tuna, Really? | National Geographic
- The Sham of the MSC Label | BLOOM
- Death at Sea: The Fisheries Inspectors Who Never Came Home | The Guardian
- How Plastics Are Making Us Infertile — And Could Even Lead to Human Extinction | Salon
- Children of Men | Prime Video
- Seaspiracy | Netflix
- What Seaspiracy Gets Right About the Exploitative Fishing Industry by Spencer Roberts | Jacobin
- Professor Has a Message for Congress: Overfishing Is Over | E&E News
- Overfishing: What Is Bycatch? | ReefCI
- Crocodile Dundee | Prime Video
- Dynamite and Poison: Coral Reefs Continue to Suffer in the Philippines | Eco Magazine
- Save Bluefin Tuna | Center for Biological Diversity
- Joshua Fields Millburn | Love People, Use Things | Jordan Harbinger
- The Regenerative Ranching Racket by Spencer Roberts | Medium
- A Soil-Science Revolution Upends Plans to Fight Climate Change | Quanta Magazine
- Grazed and Confused? How Much Can Grazing Livestock Help To Mitigate Climate Change? | TABLE
- Ghost Fleet | Vulcan Productions
- Slave Labor Is Used to Catch Fish. This Tech Aims to Stop It. | National Geographic
- Why Is It So Difficult to Stamp Out Seafood Slavery? There Is Little Justice, Even in Court | The Conversation
599: Spencer Roberts | The Dirty Truth About Corporate Greenwashing
[00:00:00] Jordan Harbinger: Special thanks to our sponsor Glenfiddich single malt scotch whisky. As you've heard over the past few weeks, I'm talking about Glenfiddich, that highly recognizable stag icon that adorns our show art. They've got a new body of work that aims to challenge the traditional notions, commonly portrayed in culture, of what it means to be wealthy and live a life of riches. Glenfiddich believes that beyond the material, a life of wealth and riches is about family, community, values, and fulfilling work. These are the values that led Glenfiddich to become the world's leading single malt scotch whisky. This week's guest Spencer Roberts exemplifies these values and you'll find out why later on in the episode. More from our partners at Glenfiddich coming up later in the show.
[00:00:35] Coming up next on The Jordan Harbinger Show.
[00:00:39] Spencer Roberts: I would be more concerned rather than antibiotics about mercury, microplastics, and other bioaccumulant. These kinds of compounds that we can't really flush out of our systems. So as the higher you go up the food chain, these toxic compounds accumulate in the tissues of these fish, particularly predatory ones like swordfish, cetaceans too, like dolphins and stuff, tuna. Yeah, there are a lot of public health organizations that have said, "Do not eat this stuff. It's unhealthy." And you know, all these studies about the increasing levels of microplastics in our blood and sperm and all this kind of sh*t. So it's not necessarily healthy either.
[00:01:22] Jordan Harbinger: Welcome to the show. I'm Jordan Harbinger. On The Jordan Harbinger Show, we decode the stories, secrets, and skills of the world's most fascinating people. We have in-depth conversations with people at the top of their game, astronauts and entrepreneurs, spies and psychologists, even the occasional four-star general, war correspondent, or underworld figure. Each episode turns our guests' wisdom into practical advice you can use to build a deeper understanding of how the world works and become a better critical thinker.
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[00:02:10] Today, there's no such thing as sustainable fishing. Now, I'm not a tree hugging environmentalist guy, but I pay a little bit of attention. A lot of the labels on things like tuna that say that their dolphins say, for example, are eco-friendly, a lot of that turns out to just be marketing and sometimes an outright lie. Also, there's a lot of slave labor in the fishing industry. I had no idea about this. I couldn't believe what I was seeing and hearing when I researched this. This might not be a feel good conversation here in this episode, but it is something that opened my eyes a bit. And I think it was one, interesting and two, even though it's not great news, you'll appreciate it as well.
[00:02:45] If you're wondering how I managed to book all these great authors, thinkers, and creators every single week, it's because of my network. And I'm teaching you how to build your network for free over at jordanharbinger.com/course. And by the way, most of the guests that you see on the show, subscribe and contribute to the course. So come join us, you'll be in smart company where you belong. Now, here's Spencer Roberts.
[00:03:08] All the ratings on dolphin-safe tuna or environmentally sustainable or safe foods, it sounds like the more I researched this, the more that's just kind of total bullsh*t.
[00:03:18] Spencer Roberts: Yeah, absolutely. If you think about where these certifications come from, I think that's the best way to understand it, it's really just a bunch of corporations coming together and deciding a good way to market their products. A lot of the time there will be an NGO involved and that helps to lend some credibility but these NGOs have an interest as well. They are marketing their brands. Their label goes on the shelf. It goes on the product that helps them get notoriety, helps them get donations. And oftentimes, they'll also charge licensing fees. So there is a financial conflict of interest there as well that makes them want to sell or certify as much as they can.
[00:04:00] Jordan Harbinger: So essentially for people who are like, "Wait, what are you talking about?" When we see a label that says like MSC-certified or dolphin-safe tuna, this is the tuna company, maybe an NGO that comes to sort of like whitewash or greenwash — we're going to sort of use this term — greenwash the idea and then maybe some other tuna manufacturers or fisheries or whatever it is. And they just say, "Hey, let's make a label that says that this is dolphin safe and the requirements are we kind of try, maybe it is kill fewer dolphins, or if we see a dolphin trap in the net, yeah, we'll try and fish it out while it's still alive or something." And the bar is just as impossibly low because they said it themselves. And then they put that label on their own food.
[00:04:42] Kind of like that — you probably don't notice this, but when I was an attorney, they'd be like, "Hey, if you want to pay 10 grand, you can be like lawyer of the year in real estate." And you basically pay this fake magazine that's made by a bunch of other d-bag attorneys that are awarding themselves crap. And then for the right amount of money, they'll give you — it's like buying yourself a dad-of-the-year mug and being like, "Yeah, I don't know my kids, they love me." It's that, but it's for marketing tuna. And then a sucker like me goes to the store and goes "Well, I like tuna, but I also like dolphins," and so I buy that one and it's 50 cents more. But all I'm doing is just being an uninformed sucker and buying this stuff, thinking that I'm being environmentally conscious when really I'm just paying for marketing, a marketing stamp that they themselves have made.
[00:05:26] Spencer Roberts: Yeah, absolutely. So the business model is generally pay to play. And it's less often the actual fishing corporations than it is the seafood vendors making these agreements. But just to throw out some stats on why the MSC, the Marine Stewardship Council, for instance, the seafood BlueTech is such a racket, first of all, so that pay to play 80 percent. Their own reports show that more than 80 percent of their funding comes from that logo licensing from the seafood vendors. They have certified everything from deep sea trawling, that rips up ancient coral reefs, that can be like 2000 years old.
[00:06:09] Jordan Harbinger: This is when they drag the net on the ground, right?
[00:06:11] Spencer Roberts: Exactly.
[00:06:12] Jordan Harbinger: It's like cluster bombing the ocean floor to get some fish.
[00:06:15] Spencer Roberts: Yeah, and everything else that comes with it, which they just throw overboard. Or, you know, maybe they'll crush it into a paste and sell it to a feedlot or something like that. Up until a couple of years ago, they were certifying the lobster fisheries in the Northeast, which are the number one cause of what seems to be the imminent extinction of the North Atlantic Right Whale. They get entangled in these lobster lines. There's about 400 of them left. The industry has done everything to prevent any kind of regulation. In the first 15 years of its existence, more than a third of the seafood certified with MSC received formal objections from conservation groups. A study last year found that 83 percent of their certified seafood came from industrial fisheries, even though half of their marketing show these small, low impact fisheries, but those only represented seven percent of the seafood they certified.
[00:07:07] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, I see. So they basically have a bunch of brochures that show like a mom and pop, like an old friendly guy with a mustache and a yellow hat on his little boat with his kids or something fishing. And they're like, this is you're certifying, but really it's like a huge ass factory fishery, 700 foot long battleship-sized fishing boat. That's just grinding sh*t up like you seein Seaspiracy or whatever those movies are.
[00:07:29] Spencer Roberts: Yeah, exactly. So they'll show like an indigenous fishermen casting a net out of a canoe fishing for their family, but actually those are the people who are being the most impacted by this industrial fishing. And it's causing all sorts of problems from hunger to unemployment, immigration, and all these things. And so there's all these other problems with the observer system. The captain has to sign off on what the observers reports. Some of the observers disappear in the last decade.
[00:07:58] Jordan Harbinger: So when you say observer, these are like people that go out on the ships and say, "Hey, the certification process is being followed," or at least the environmentally, whatever guidelines are being followed. But then the captain has to be like, "Oh, that sounds good, what you wrote in your room."
[00:08:12] Spencer Roberts: Yeah. They're meant to be a independent third party.
[00:08:15] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:08:15] Spencer Roberts: But you know, if you make the vessel that you're on look bad, you're not going to have a job doing that for very long. And some of the observers in the last decade, more than a dozen observers, particularly in Southeast Asia have disappeared at sea. They'll say they fell overboard. That was one case where they said he committed suicide in his cabin. And the detectives came on board and they had just deep cleaned the place, no blood or anything, no signs.
[00:08:39] Jordan Harbinger: So let me pause you right here. So these guys are going on the boats to observe, and either they have to say a bunch of bullsh*t and the captain signs off on it, or they literally get suicided at sea. Their bodies are gone. They're fish food, unfortunately. Or they just vanish some other way. Like, "Oh, we haven't seen him. Oh, he was never on the boat." I mean, that that's creepy as hell.
[00:09:02] Spencer Roberts: Those are the worst cases. It's not like quite a binary like that necessarily, but there's that relationship between the observer who's on this boat, often for months at a time, who has to have this working relationship with the vessel, with the fishing corporation and everything. So it's really hard for them to actually be an independent third party.
[00:09:22] Jordan Harbinger: That's like being a cop, but you're in a prison cell with a bunch of the gang members that you actually have to keep an eye on and they also have to sign off on whatever you write. But also you're trying not to get stabbed in your sleep.
[00:09:30] Spencer Roberts: Yeah. That's a decent corollary.
[00:09:33] Jordan Harbinger: That's crazy.
[00:09:34] Spencer Roberts: Yeah, absolutely. I think perhaps the worst part, or not the worst part, but the part that makes these certifications so fallible is the prevalence of fraud in seafood labeling. So a meta study this year came out that looked at 44 different peer-reviewed genetic analyses of more than 9,000 seafood samples found that nearly 40 percent were mislabeled. So if you go to your supermarket or your restaurant or whatever, and you can't even rely on the labeling being accurate for the species of the fish that you're buying almost half the time. Which is the only thing we can really trace with genetic testing. How accurate do you think the country of origin labeling and the gear methods use to catch that seafood is going to be. So like the whole idea of being an informed seafood consumer is kind of a wash.
[00:10:27] Jordan Harbinger: Right, because even if I'm reading the label and I'm spending 30 minutes at the grocery store, annoying the sh*t out of my wife, because I'm reading every little detail, it could also just be complete nonsense. Because unless I'm going to like take it to my home lab before I could. It might not be cod and it might not be from Norway or wherever they have got. And it might also not be line caught, it might just be tilapia trolled from the bottom of some endangered species, the coast of Somalia or whatever, and just frozen for six months and then resold to me. And I'm like, "Oh, this cod tastes a little weird. I don't like this brand."
[00:11:00] Spencer Roberts: Right.
[00:11:00] Jordan Harbinger: That's because it's not cod and it's not from where it's from. And yeah, it wasn't cod. So this is just wild west sh*t though.
[00:11:06] Spencer Roberts: Yeah.
[00:11:06] Jordan Harbinger: Right, because—
[00:11:07] Spencer Roberts: High seas.
[00:11:08] Jordan Harbinger: —now I'm just eating like cardboard with fish flavoring. And I have no idea. And there's no like enforceability and the guy who is going to blow the whistle got thrown into the ocean.
[00:11:17] Spencer Roberts: Right. Oftentimes, it's not actually even fish. Some will be like—
[00:11:20] Jordan Harbinger: Well, I was joking, man.
[00:11:21] Spencer Roberts: Yeah.
[00:11:21] Jordan Harbinger: That's disturbing. What is it then?
[00:11:23] Spencer Roberts: Oh, you know, like pork, other stuff. Lots of fillers, like soy meal and stuff. Yeah. It depends on like your—
[00:11:30] Jordan Harbinger: You can make pork tastes like fish.
[00:11:32] Spencer Roberts: Yeah. I can't remember exactly in the study, but they were talking about one particular — I want to say with some kind of shellfish that was like very commonly actually pork.
[00:11:41] Jordan Harbinger: That's really weird as hell. On the one hand, I'm like, dang, that's innovative as hell. Like you're making pork tastes like fish, and then you're selling it as such, like, that's a hell of a scam. There's a little bit of applause there, but then I'm like, "Well, wait a minute. I'm eating that sh*t. That's not cool. And you're ripping me off. This is terrible." But they go through — this isn't like, "Eh, let's call the tilapia cod because — or like let's call the," what is it called? "The toothfish, let's call it a sea bass to sell it better."
[00:12:05] Spencer Roberts: Right, right.
[00:12:05] Jordan Harbinger: This is like feed them something completely different. And then lie to them about it. That freaks me out because then it's like — well, if you're telling me it's fish, but it's pork. How do I know? It doesn't have a bunch of antibiotics in it? And you're just lying about that too. Like if you're going to lie about something as major as what species the thing is that I'm eating, you theoretically could just be lying to me about something even worse.
[00:12:29] Spencer Roberts: Right. I would be more concerned rather than antibiotics about mercury, microplastics, and other bioaccumulants. These kinds of compounds that we can't really flush out of our system. So as the higher you go up the food chain, these toxic compounds accumulate in the tissues of these fish, particularly predatory ones like swordfish, cetaceans too, like dolphins and stuff, tuna. Yeah, there are a lot of public health organizations that have said, "Do not eat this stuff. It's unhealthy." And you know, there are all these studies about the increasing levels of microplastics in our blood and sperm and all this kind of sh*t. So it's not necessarily healthy either.
[00:13:09] Jordan Harbinger: The idea that there might be microplastics in my sperm.
[00:13:13] Spencer Roberts: Oh, there certainly are. Yeah.
[00:13:15] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, that's a thing. That's already for sure there, and there's nothing I can do about it.
[00:13:18] Spencer Roberts: Yeah. Pretty much. Like kids born these days, physiologists are estimating that by — well, if you look at the trajectory, I'm not really an expert in this kind of stuff, but there was a recent study where physiologists projected that by 2045 men in Western countries were going to hit zero sperm count.
[00:13:37] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, I've read this. That almost seems like, how is that even possible? I mean, at some point people are going to go, "Hey—" What's that movie? Children of Men where like, no one's having babies. And a pregnant woman walks through a war zone and everyone stopped shooting and it's like, holy crap, it's a pregnant woman. Like how are we not going to have just every red alert going well before that. Like, this is so serious that I feel like it can't be the case because we would hear more about it, right? But then again, I've been wrong about that kind of thing so many times.
[00:14:04] Spencer Roberts: Yeah. I mean—
[00:14:05] Jordan Harbinger: I'm speechless.
[00:14:06] Spencer Roberts: Same. I don't know what else to say about it.
[00:14:08] Jordan Harbinger: It sounds exaggerated because it's such an obviously severe problem that if no one has sperm count — like if our sperm count is zero, who the hell is reproducing? Can that really be the floor. And is that because of microplastics or that's because of gazillion other factors.
[00:14:22] Spencer Roberts: Yeah, I think it's a lot of factors, but they're saying, "Well, we can do in vitro stuff and we can sort of get around these problems as we go." again, like not really my wheelhouse but it's a huge problem. We're definitely starting to shoot blanks.
[00:14:36] Jordan Harbinger: That feel another episode coming on with like a fertility expert who's written a book on this. I know I've definitely cornered you in on this topic that you really, this is sort of a tangent, but that should scare anyone. And if anybody has — I know that there are listeners who are probably like, "Oh, this is my area of study." So email me if this is your area, I'd love to hear who the authority is on this. And I'll probably do some research on this because this I don't cover health on the show, but if we're going towards zero sperm count, one, I want to know if that's actually true and not just sort of hyped up. And also I want to know what the hell is going on there because that that's like my kid not being able to reproduce. That directly affects anybody who wants kids or grandkids right now.
[00:15:15] So we mentioned a little bit, you said before, "Oh, they catch fish, but then they also catch other things and they grind it into feed paste." So this idea of bycatch, this is something I hadn't heard about until I watched Seaspiracy, which I know is riddled with inaccuracies and some exaggerations and stuff like that, but it's not completely made up, right?
[00:15:32] Spencer Roberts: No, the real controversy over the film is just how much it pissed off the fishing industry. You know, so there were all these responses from the industry that were actually more false than the film and the film certainly made some oversimplifications, but in a lot of sort of pop science ways where they cited that 2006 study by Boris Worm about that projection by 2048, these major fish populations could crash. NatGeo, Smithsonian, everyone reported on that in the same way. This was sort of the beginning of this fishing industry PR freak out, where they started to strategize and how they can sort of break into popular media. So they formed all these groups like this one, Sustainable Fisheries, University of Washington, where they have this blog and they pump out these articles all the time.
[00:16:17] And so they saw Seaspiracy and they said, "We need to respond to this." And they disputed five or six facts in this film with over a hundred citations. And at least two of them, they were wrong about, there was one case where they claimed that Seaspiracy cited a retracted study, which actually had not been retracted. There's actually like a whole interesting background on these fisheries scientists trying to discredit these researchers who are publishing these data on illegal seafood imports.
[00:16:48] Jordan Harbinger: You're listening to The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest Spencer Roberts. We'll be right back.
[00:16:55] Special thanks to Zelle for sponsoring this episode of The Jordan Harbinger Show.
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[00:19:20] Now back to Spencer Roberts.
[00:19:23] So Seaspiracy for those of you who haven't seen it, this is a Netflix film. When you watch it, you can kind of tell the tone is a little — what is it? Alarmist. But also a lot of the things that they talk about, you're like, "Oh my God, this is serious." And then when I started to look at the responses, it was kind of like, "Oh, okay, let's just get people really scared about this other thing, or let's distract from this." And so, yes, while some claims might be exaggerated while there's a lot of animation, like you said, oversimplification, when I started to try and find real rebuttals, and I got a ton of emails about this too. I don't remember mentioning Seaspiracy on this show, but I got a bunch of emails from people that must be listening to us or search the transcripts on the Internet and immediately like fire off their publicist on this. Because I got all these like, "Oh, watch this other film." Or like, "Read this little synopsis of a story from University of Washington," or something like that. And I'm like, "Yeah, but it doesn't address any of these other claims." It just says like, "Oh, you know what, this is sustainable, the fish population will bounce back. It's fine." And I'm like, "Yeah, but what about all the other ecosystem damage and trawling on the bottom of the ocean and wrecking the coral reefs." And they're like, "Oh yeah. I mean, that's all in one specific area." I'm like, "Well, that by definition can't be true. You're not catching a bunch of fish in the same place every single time." Like none of that makes any sense." And also who's telling you that you're in the same area, the people who are lying about me eating pork in a freaking tuna can, come on.
[00:20:45] Spencer Roberts: Right.
[00:20:45] Jordan Harbinger: Like you don't know who to believe.
[00:20:48] Spencer Roberts: Yeah, absolutely. And I think that sort of demonstrates that pattern that I was talking about of this industry PR and the real machine behind it. These responses were immediate. They were actually before the film. They knew it was coming out. There were these allegedly leaked emails in fishing industry groups, like National Fisheries Institute saying, "We've got to prepare for this film. We got to have these rebuttals."
[00:21:14] Essentially, there's this really deep infiltration of industry money into marine science, specifically this field called fishery science, which exists in parallel to marine biology, which I think should say something about how it works in a lot of these—
[00:21:31] Jordan Harbinger: what do you mean by that? Like the fact that there's two parallel tracks means one is pro-conservation and the other one is pro-industry.
[00:21:38] Spencer Roberts: Yeah, exactly. Like, you would think this falls under the purview of marine biology or marine ecology.
[00:21:44] Jordan Harbinger: Right. Unless the conclusions are what you don't want, then you make up a parallel field of study and you come up with the conclusions you do want. It's like tobacco science.
[00:21:51] Spencer Roberts: Yeah.
[00:21:51] Jordan Harbinger: And it's like, "Well, wait, what about just health? No, no, no, no. We have tobacco science. It's good for you. It turns out, cigarettes are great for you."
[00:21:57] Spencer Roberts: Yeah, it's absolutely based on the business side. It's more of like a business than a biology field is what I'd say. There's a very high prevalence of industry funding, but basically it's based on this concept called maximum sustainable yield. So modern fishery science, it takes this concept from 19th century German scientific forestry, not based on observational data, but these simplistic population models. And it defines the population level of maximum sustainable yield as half of a fish population's carrying capacity. So in theory, cutting this fish population in half strikes this balance between the amount of reproducing individuals and these limiting factors where the maximum population growth will occur, which is conveniently the maximum profitability.
[00:22:44] Yeah. And so this concept is extremely ubiquitous, even at the UN. So the UN Food and Agriculture Organization says two-thirds of fish stocks is what they call them. It's very financialized, all the language, and fishery science are within biologically sustainable levels. But what they're not really telling you is the backend of these calculations, which means that these fish populations are at approximately half other historic levels. And the remaining one are lower. They define 40 percent of the carrying capacity as over-fished. In the US, they'll go down to 25 percent a lot of the time.
[00:23:18] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, wow.
[00:23:18] Spencer Roberts: Then over 60 percent, they call this underfished and these fisheries scientists will go to Congress and they'll tell the lawmakers like, "underfishing is really dangerous. People are going to starve if we keep underfishing. These fish populations, we haven't exploited yet." So basically we have these fisheries industry scientists at the UN FAO defining our sustainable fishing goals, which I agree was kind of like having petroleum geologists at the IPCC setting our emissions targets.
[00:23:45] Jordan Harbinger: So it sounds like earlier you were saying the reason that it's at maximum profitability and it happens to be half or whatever, less than half of the fish population, it sounds like you're asserting that they reverse engineered what happens to be sustainable from the peak of where they're making the most money. Right? Is that what you meant by that?
[00:24:03] Spencer Roberts: Yeah, absolutely. And by sustainable, what they mean is maybe the fish population won't completely crash.
[00:24:09] Jordan Harbinger: Right. Won't crash and go extinct.
[00:24:10] Spencer Roberts: Yeah. All of our data, as you can imagine, it's incredibly difficult to accurately estimate a fish population size that you can't see.
[00:24:17] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:24:18] Spencer Roberts: So it's based on our catches. It's based on the age structures of the catches, they pull up a lot of different things, but still it's very sketchy. There've been many examples where a fish population crashed like the Atlantic cod, where we did not see how fast it was coming. Even the fisheries scientists were warning, but it happened. They went from catching in the '90s more than a quarter million, tons of cod. Every year to zero in a period of about five years.
[00:24:45] Jordan Harbinger: They're catching zero Atlantic cod now?
[00:24:47] Spencer Roberts: They're still around, but like, it was just economically infeasible to send boats out, to try to catch them. And that's generally the pattern in the whole world, the ocean. Fishing corporations are exerting about twice as much, more than twice as much fuel and time and resources to catch about half as much fish as we did in the '50s.
[00:25:07] Jordan Harbinger: Oh wow, because we're fishing further and further away from where it's convenient. Like we have to go at 250 miles or whatever instead of 12 to get fish.
[00:25:16] Spencer Roberts: And there are less fish as well, yeah.
[00:25:17] Jordan Harbinger: Right. That makes sense. The underfishing thing makes no sense to me because what people are going to starve, I don't think — first of all, nobody in the United States is starving for fresh seafood. I don't know if anybody anywhere is like, "You know what? These kids need fresh cod of they need fresh, whatever sort of seafood." Like if you're actually starving, it's not because of a lack of freshly caught deep sea or whatever fish, right? It's because of you are too poor and you live in Africa and it's like, you don't need seafood. You need literally any food. So the underfishing thing makes no sense to me. That can't be their argument.
[00:25:53] Spencer Roberts: No, it literally is underfishing and the most f*cked up part of it is that there actually are people starving from a lack of seafood and it's these subsistence fishing communities.
[00:26:02] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. Like the guys who live in Somalia that are now pirates because there's no—
[00:26:06] Spencer Roberts: Exactly.
[00:26:07] Jordan Harbinger: —fish off the coast. Okay. Those people in fishing villages are starving, but I don't mean, I mean—
[00:26:11] Spencer Roberts: Because of industrial fishing.
[00:26:12] Jordan Harbinger: Because of industrial fishing in part, and I'm not trying to excuse piracy. I mean, it's a criminal gang thing and it's horrible. But overfishing obviously causes problems for people who are fishing, like indigenous people and whatnot, fishing from their villages. But it's not like, large swathes of the population are not getting food because of underfishing. They're not getting food because of overfishing.
[00:26:35] Spencer Roberts: Yeah, exactly.
[00:26:36] Jordan Harbinger: That argument makes no sense to me. I almost don't believe you because it's so ridiculous to assert that if I don't fish more with my trawler, someone's going hungry because of that. It doesn't make any sense.
[00:26:48] Spencer Roberts: Yeah. I mean, you can look at this guy, Ray Hilborn, very famous fisheries scientist, broil than all this controversy taken millions of dollars from seafood corporations to fund his research. You can look up his testimonies to Congress about the dangers of underfishing. And the thing that's also messed up is that they'll twist this around and say that, "People who are advocating to regulate or boycott the seafood industry are the ones who are going to make these subsistence fishermen starve." When actually stealing fish from them is what's making them starve so that we can eat it. You know what I mean?
[00:27:22] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. I mean, that sort of seems like that has to be the case. I'm not anti-corporation or anti-business or anything like that, you know?And I love eating fish and eating fresh food. And I'm not like, I really am not — this almost sounds like, "Oh, these two communists are talking about getting rid of all the fishing." I don't know what side of the political spectrum you fall on. And I could kind of guess, but also the more research I did on this, the more it's like, you don't have to be this left wing, sort of like never eat any animal products, vegan down with the man guy to see the problems with this.
[00:27:53] At first I thought that for sure, you know, I thought like, okay, I'm sitting around playing my bongo drum, talking about how we're overfishing. It really is more mainstream than that. Right? Like you can really see these problems in the charts that you're looking at anywhere online. And you're just kind of going, like, how are we allowed to continue to do this? Unless you're like, "Hey, I'm pro-wailing," or whatever, you know, you like, you really, you can be very centrist, I guess, is what I'm trying to say and see the obvious problem with the way that we fish.
[00:28:23] Spencer Roberts: Yeah, absolutely. Politics aside the reality is that the extent and the intensity with which we are extracting marine life from the ocean is fundamentally unsustainable, a similar way that the extent and the intensity with which we're burning fossil fuels is fundamentally unsustainable. We literally cannot keep doing it. And yeah, it doesn't really matter what your politics and what you think the solutions are, I have my ideas, but the solution is not to stay on this trajetory.
[00:28:55] Jordan Harbinger: So bycatch going back to this idea, this is something you catch when you're trying to catch something else. So it's like collateral damage. If I'm trying to catch a bunch of tuna or whatever, the bycatch is sharks, seals, porpoises, birds even, turtles. There's all kinds of stuff in there and all of that stuff dies, right? I mean, if it's mashed in a net together and then dragged up from deep water, it doesn't really stand a chance, right?.
[00:29:19] Spencer Roberts: Yeah. Very high percentage of bycatch dies on deck. And it depends what kind of fishing method they're using. Like a trawl stays under water for a long time. And if a marine mammal gets caught in there or a reptile, like turtle, that needs to breathe air. It's very likely they're going to die, or even just get crushed. Sometimes, they'll survive, but incur like life-threatening injuries that'll kill them later, but yeah, bycatch is a huge problem. It's often described as accidental catch, but it's really not. It's factored into the business model of the way that we do fishing today.
[00:29:53] Jordan Harbinger: And we can again, try and certify minimal bycatch, but a lot of that is just BS. Right? You just buy that certification for your product and say, "Oh, it's a minimal bycatch," but it's meaningless as we've learned in the first few minutes of the show here.
[00:30:05] Spencer Roberts: Yeah. You can even take the bycatch and say, "Sh*t. We caught all of this small bait fish that no one wants to eat. Let's crush it up into soil and we'll sell it to a fish farm so they can feed it to salmon. And then we can keep it going that way. And so now it's not bycatch because we used it."
[00:30:20] Jordan Harbinger: Right. Okay. So you ended up crushing a bunch of stuff into feed that you could make out of any pretty much anything just to get your sort of percentage of bycatch down on the report that your observer that may or may not even be there, that you may or may not be bribing, that you may or may not be murdering.
[00:30:35] Spencer Roberts: Right.
[00:30:36] Jordan Harbinger: The captain can sign off on that report that says that you did your job. Got it. All right.
[00:30:40] Is there a such thing as sustainable fishing? There has to be, right? Or is that like me fishing from a rowboat with a fishing pole is the only kind of sustainable fishing?
[00:30:49] Spencer Roberts: Well, yeah, I mean the only fishing practices that have genuinely been sustained for centuries or longer are Palauans have this, like, you know, indigenous people have these traditions and practices where they regulate fishing, like their stories. I think, ancient Fiji, you could be put to death for over fishing, right? And even like back in the 1700s, the penalty for trawling in France was death. So that was the fisherman that came together like, wow, these big industrial ships are stealing all the fish, but nowadays the scale has been so tilted.
[00:31:26] Even the fishing workers are advocating to keep this industrial fishing around but the indigenous fishermen, they're protesting, they're raising their voices are going to intergovernmental bodies, filing lawsuits and everything. But you know, their voices are generally silence. We don't hear about that a lot, but yeah, I mean the only kinds of sustainable fishing are the ones that have been sustained for a long time. And those are what indigenous people do. And those are the people threatened by these giant factory fish corporations that are certified as sustainable a lot of the time.
[00:31:58] Jordan Harbinger: Right. Yeah. So the MSC label, the one we see everywhere and it mostly certifies industrial fisheries, which are destructive and then uses that small mom and pop fishery in the marketing like we discussed before. So I looked this up 83 percent of the MSC certified fisheries are industrial. So that already is a huge red flag, but 47 percent of the marketing is the small mom and pops. And what's crazy to me is the only practices that are considered unsustainable by that label are fishing with explosives, which sounds, I didn't even realize that was a thing I thought that was just something I saw on Crocodile Dundee. Remember that movie?
[00:32:36] Spencer Roberts: I haven't seen it, but—
[00:32:37] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, well you're probably not 40, right? When I saw it I was like eight years old. He's like a rednecky Australian guy with a giant Bowie knife and a hat, but he drops dynamite off the boat into, you know, probably the Hudson River or wherever he is in the movie and all these fish float up.
[00:32:52] Spencer Roberts: Yeah. That's a real thing.
[00:32:53] Jordan Harbinger: I didn't know. That was a real thing. I thought that was literally from like a stupid comedy from the '80s. So I don't know if they dynamite fish, but what do they do? They drop an explosive into the water and just all these dead fish float up. That's so weird.
[00:33:05] Spencer Roberts: Yeah, absolutely. I don't know what kinds of explosives they use either. I do think they use dynamite sometimes. A lot of the time it's to bust open coral reefs where fish are sheltering. So they also use like electromagnetic pulses to stun fish. They'll have them float to the surface. Cyanide fishing is a big thing in the aquarium trade.
[00:33:25] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, poison. That to me is so freaking disturbing that you're going to poison the fish and then be like, "Here you go, man."
[00:33:31] Spencer Roberts: Yeah, those are generally not for food, but for the aquarium trade. So they'll go dive down and find some rare reef fish, shelteringin a crevice, in the coral and just squirt this bottle of cyanide. They get stunned. They can't move. And then they float out, they bring them up, they sell them in a pet store and they live in like a week.
[00:33:50] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, because they've been poisoned with cyanide and then you brought it out of its habitat and now it's, so then it's just like a pet.
[00:33:55] Spencer Roberts: Yeah.
[00:33:55] Jordan Harbinger: That's what it's for. Oh, that's so horrible. That's so horrible. The poison thing freaked me out, obviously. I'm glad that they're not food, but it's also depressing that they just become pets.
[00:34:04] Spencer Roberts: I can't say for sure that there's no cyanide fishing for food, but generally it's an aquarium trade thing. Yeah.
[00:34:09] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. I mean, I guess if you're already selling me pork and you're calling it fish, what's the difference whether you poison the fish to get it to go in the can in the first place. Seriously, what's the difference? So the MSC label certified by a place, paid by the fishery. So there's a massive conflict of interest here. And obviously they certify the dredging, the trawling and all that damage that we discussed before. And they even certify endangered species, which was shocking to me. Like the Atlantic bluefin tuna, that can be certified, but it's an endangered species, which makes, I mean, the definition of unsustainable is killing an endangered species. Like it all sounds like parody.
[00:34:44] Spencer Roberts: Yeah. I mean, honestly, the disrespect we show to tuna is one of the saddest things to me. These are apex predators. The bluefin is enormous, like bigger than you. They navigate across the whole oceans. They have these amazing life cycles where they start as little plankton floating in the surface waters, and then they'll dive down. They grow to massive sizes and dive down into the depths. You know, like we have this — I think we're starting to come around to this cultural respect of sharks and we have it, of course, in dolphins, but tuna are like these amazing animals. And when you say tuna, people think of can of tuna flesh.
[00:35:22] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:35:22] Spencer Roberts: So they're literally endangered Atlantic bluefin and the Pacific population is not doing that much better. And you can buy them on the shelves of your supermarket.
[00:35:34] Jordan Harbinger: This is The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest Spencer Roberts. We'll be right back.
[00:35:39] This episode is sponsored in part by Bambee. When running a business, HR issues can kill you. Wrongful termination suits, minimum wage requirements, labor regulations, and HR manager salaries are an average of $70,000 a year. Bambee, spelled B-A-M-B-E-E, was created specifically for small businesses. You can get a dedicated HR manager, craft HR policy, maintain your compliance, all for just 99 bucks a month. With Bambee, you can change HR from your biggest liability to your biggest strength. You're dedicated HR manager is available by phone, email, or real-time chat. From onboarding to terminations, they customize your policies to fit your business and help you manage your employees day-to-day, all for just $99 a month. Month to month, no hidden fees, cancel anytime you didn't start your business because you wanted to spend time on HR compliance.
[00:36:28] Jen Harbinger: Go to bambee.com/jordan right now to schedule your free HR audit. That's bambee.com/jordan, spelled BAM to the B-E-E.com/jordan.
[00:36:37] Jordan Harbinger: This episode is also sponsored by Zelle. Zelle is a great way to send money to family and friends, no matter where they bank in the US I travel light. I rarely carry a wallet. I don't even have a credit card on me most of the time. I pretty much have everything I need on my phone. Plus, I can send money with Zelle because it's so easy and super fast, splitting the cost of a gift, chip in for a friend spa day or massage. What's great about Zelle is you don't have to download yet another app because it's most likely already in your banking app, since it's in over a thousand different banking apps, as it is. The money sent goes straight into the recipient's bank account, typically in minutes between enrolled users. So look for Zelle in your banking app today.
[00:37:13] This episode is also sponsored in part by Glenfiddich. Glenfiddich breaks from the single malt scotch whisky norm, and helps redefine what it means to be rich. Very easy these days to get bogged down in material success, when the currency of the new rich is getting more time and enjoyment out of what we've already got. Now, today on the show, we're talking with Spencer Roberts, as you know. He's talking a lot about nature and the planet and how we are essentially greenwashing a lot of the things that we consume. Consumerism in many ways — look, I'm not one of those hippies who's like buy nothing, weave your mattress out of straw or whatever. I'm not one of those guys. But you know, we do need to cut down on what we take from this planet and what we think makes us happy. It's always part of the problem. Right? More is better. More money is better. Consuming more is better. It's just not true. We heard about that a few episodes ago with Joshua Fields Millburn as well. So I really liked this message, even though it's a little depressing with the greenwashing angle. I really do think this is an important message and I hope you're getting a lot out of this episode. Thanks to Glenfiddich for making it possible.
[00:38:09] Jen Harbinger: Skillfully crafted and enjoy responsibly. Glenfiddich 2021 imported by William Grant and Sons Inc. New York, New York.
[00:38:16] Jordan Harbinger: Now for the rest of my conversation with Spencer Roberts.
[00:38:20] Yeah. That's super depressing. The fact that it's labeled or whatever, and this MSC label, of course now, or any label, it prevents any possibility or at least the majority of the possibility of structural change in the industry, in the fishing sector anyway, because it legitimizes the worst practices. So like you can do all this horrible stuff. But then it's like, "Oh no, it's got the label on there. So I don't have to worry about this." And then they can also just sort of throw that up as a shield whenever anyone's like, "Hey, what you're doing is unsustainable?" "It can't be, we have a blue label that says sustainable right on the can. What are you talking about unsustainable?" That's the idea behind the label in the first place, right?
[00:38:57] Spencer Roberts: Yeah. It ends up — it's marketing.
[00:38:59] Jordan Harbinger: So is it even possible to eat fish without being a part of the problem? You know, do I have to become callous and not give a crap? Or is there something like other varieties of fish that I can eat to my heart's content and not worry about this?
[00:39:12] Spencer Roberts: I would say that if you are in an industrialized nation, like we are, you're buying from a supermarket or a seafood restaurant, yeah, you're generally — I mean, you're almost certainly contributing to industrial fishing. Like I mentioned before, there are subsistence fishing communities that have done this for a long time that do it sustainable, but ultimately us extracting fish, trafficking it all over the world is contributing to the suffering of those people.
[00:39:42] I'm not here to say, you know, tell you what to do, what you can or can't do, but I mean, if I was going to, if you're going to have to be what we should do, I think, yeah, we should join the boycott against the fishing industry.
[00:39:53] Jordan Harbinger: That's so depressing because I love fish and I love sushi and it's like all healthy, right? I'm all excited about it. And then it's like, "Oh, I can totally stop eating red meat if I had to just eat fish or I can cut way down on red meat and just eat fish." And now it's like, "Oh, I actually you're even worse now of a human for doing that."
[00:40:09] Spencer Roberts: Yeah. I mean, like we mentioned that you can make pork tastes like shellfish, for instance, you can make all sorts of things. There's all sorts of different kinds of vegan sushi. It's becoming more popular. People are working on cultured sushi using precision fermentation that doesn't involve taking it from the wild. So, you know, there is some hope that those alternatives can proliferate and become more popular. And there's definitely more awareness among the general population, but there's no legit sustainable certification model.
[00:40:40] Jordan Harbinger: Ah, that's such a bummer. I hate hearing that. I was really hoping. It was like, "Oh no, tilapia, just eat tilapia and you're good," or something. I don't know but nothing. There's nothing. Throw me a bone here.
[00:40:50] All right. So moving on because obviously that's going to be a tough nut to swallow. And again, I, I hate that this is the case because I really was hoping to hear that we weren't sort of, irredeemably destroying every facet of our environment. I was hoping there was some good news here, but, well, let's move on to some more ridiculously bad news.
[00:41:10] Spencer Roberts: Let's do it.
[00:41:11] Jordan Harbinger: You founded a regenerative farm, but it turned out to be completely fake. And that was the point. Right? Tell me about this.
[00:41:17] Spencer Roberts: Right. So this is my most recent article, which was an investigation into the regenerative ranching movement and, you know, sort of labeling scheme. And so basically, my wife and I, we made up this regenerative dairy farm and we got on this list, this web map, curated by this popular NGO called Regeneration International. I published a story about it. Also when it's a bunch of the science and the background of a lot of these regenerative ranching evangelists, like celebrity ranchers, it was pretty controversial. And they actually threatened to sue my publisher and they ended up caving and taking it down. So it's on Medium right now, but I'm working on getting it published somewhere else.
[00:42:03] Jordan Harbinger: Wow.
[00:42:03] Spencer Roberts: But the funny thing is that despite getting my article taken down, they left the fake farm on their website. It's still up.
[00:42:09] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, wow. So you started a fake farm. You put it up on the website. This is like a directory of sustainable farms. Is that what this is?
[00:42:18] Spencer Roberts: Yeah, exactly. Regenerative farms specifically.
[00:42:20] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. Okay. So, what are those again? This is like something that's carbon negative.
[00:42:26] Spencer Roberts: Right, right. So regenerative agriculture is this concept of using agricultural methods that foster the regeneration and restoration of ecosystems. There's a lot of, sort of hyperfocus on the soil aspect of it, especially in the ranching sector. So there's this idea that by modifying the way that we move cattle around or sheep or whatever, kind of ruminants it is, grazers on the ranch, we can stimulate the growth of grass-roots, which will pull atmospheric carbon down into the soil. And there are some groups that say, "If we just tweak our ranching methods, we can solve climate change," like Regeneration International says this on their website.
[00:43:11] The IPCC and the soil scientists are very much not as optimistic, probably they think less than 20 percent of what these groups are saying, we can store in soil. Carbon can actually be stored. And that's looking at all of agriculture, not just ranching. And then there are big scientific, meta-analysis showing that generally, well, there's a lot of concepts to it, but basically you run out of capacity in the soil to store carbon. Eventually, you stop drawing down carbon and you still have cattle on the top and they are emitting methane and CO2 and all this and nitrous oxide.
[00:43:49] Yeah, basically they're saying that they're solving climate change by doing this green sustainable regenerative ranching. And there's no scrutiny or criteria involved in the way that they vet these companies and list them on their map.
[00:44:05] Jordan Harbinger: You created a fake one of these, just to see if you could get away with it. They threatened to sue your publisher after you published the fact that they did this, but then they don't remove your farm from the website. What's that all about?
[00:44:15] Spencer Roberts: I think it really just proves the point that they're not paying a lot of attention to it. They're paying attention to the PR, but they're not paying attention at all to the desize.
[00:44:23] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, it's almost like they just want to add the farm to the tally or they just care so little about the actual directory that nobody's even managing it. That's kind of scary.
[00:44:33] Spencer Roberts: It's kind of funny.
[00:44:34] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. So not only does the science not necessarily hold up for regenerative farming or at least according to what a lot of these places say, but their business model is clearly just to get the certification money and then not really worry about anything else.
[00:44:47] Spencer Roberts: Yeah. So, I mean, obviously I didn't have to pay to get on this one, so there's not necessarily—
[00:44:51] Jordan Harbinger: You didn't?
[00:44:52] Spencer Roberts: Yeah. So there's not money involved in this one. There certainly are certification schemes, like the Allan Savory's holistic ranching. One that do involve paying for the certification. This wasn't really a certification. I wasn't going to waste my money on that sh*t.
[00:45:04] It's not just about the money, but also the notoriety of a label and just getting the NGO out there and getting the name out there. And they've worked with all these climate groups and all these food justice activists and stuff like that. And, you know, politicians have gone in their platforms and said, "We need to do regenerative ranching. We need to move cows around and fight climate change." There's not really any science behind it.
[00:45:30] Jordan Harbinger: Got it. Okay. I didn't realize that.
[00:45:31] Spencer Roberts: I mean, to an extent there are certainly studies that show is particularly on very degraded lands, that if you reduce some of that pressure, like if you stop intensive monocropping and you have, you know, a small amount of cows running around on there, you will build up some carbon soil for a while. But it's nothing compared to, if you just let the ecosystem rewild and you have the, all the organisms above ground storing carbon as well.
[00:45:58] Jordan Harbinger: Let's talk about the forced labor, especially on ships, because there's a lot of forced labor in a lot of these different sort of agricultural sectors even produce and things like that and slaughterhouses, but the ship thing, the forced labor on ships is really disturbing. Because there's something that just seems — you're literally imprisoned on a boat, right?
[00:46:17] Spencer Roberts: Yeah.
[00:46:17] Jordan Harbinger: For sometimes years at a time.
[00:46:19] Spencer Roberts: Sometimes decades.
[00:46:20] Jordan Harbinger: Sometimes decades. Right. I watched this movie Ghost Fleet, which is a documentary about an NGO that rescues these guys. And it seems to center around Thailand, right? They just have this unregulated fishing. They've had it for decades. They've overfished their local waters. And now the boats have to go out really far to catch fish. Like we were talking about earlier in the show from a lot of other countries as well.
[00:46:41] So there's these really long voyages at sea and sailors started to be like, "Hey man, I used to go out for three days now. Now I'm out for three months. This sucks. I'm not going to work in this industry." So they essentially couldn't find workers and then sea captains, I mean, correct me if I'm wrong. A lot of the sea captains were like, "Fine. If you don't want to work here, we're literally just going to kidnap you and you do it."
[00:47:01] Spencer Roberts: Yeah, that's generally how it works. They'll make these promises. The epicenter is Southeast Asia of the global slave trade in fishing, but there are examples in even the United States. In Hawaii, there was a huge bust in 2016, like 700 workers on this compound, some of them for like seven years. But basically how it works is they go to these poor communities that don't have a lot of employment opportunities and they'll make them these promises like, "You're going to get a good wage on this fishing boat." Or sometimes, they'll even say, "You're going to go do a construction job on another island or something." And they'll just basically never bring you back to your home or even maybe not to port for years at a time.
[00:47:38] There's even cases, testimonies, where guys have gone to a bar and gotten drugged and woken up on a fishing vessel. There's this one testimony in Ghost Fleet where this guy wakes up on the fishing vessel. They send them down below deck to start processing the marine life. And he starts asking the guys like, "How long have you been here?" And they say like, "Three years, five years, seven years." They're like missing fingers and hands from accidents with the heavy machinery, because they're forced to work in like the super high storm surges are like beaten with stingray tail sometimes, whipped with lead sinkers and stuff on a fishing lines, like punished for taking breaks to eat. So it's horrific but you might think that those are like the worst isolated cases, but it's actually incredibly prevalent in the industry.
[00:48:26] A study came out this year by a group called Global Fishing Watch, which uses satellite data to analyze the navigation patterns of fishing vessels. And it looked at 16,000 vessels and compared their navigation movements with known slave ships. And there's a few things that they do. Like they'll avoid coming into port and giving the workers a chance to jump off and try to escape. They'll use transshipments and they'll unload their catch, but refuel at sea, things like that.
[00:48:55] Jordan Harbinger: What's a transshipment?
[00:48:56] Spencer Roberts: Basically when you unload your catch onto another boat that that boat brings in to port.
[00:49:01] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, that's how they smuggle like oil into North Korea, right?
[00:49:04] Spencer Roberts: Yeah.
[00:49:04] Jordan Harbinger: They bring a boat from Taiwan and then a North Korean boat meets them in international waters and then they pump all the petroleum into that ship. And then the ship returns to Taiwan without ever having to go to North Korea.
[00:49:14] Spencer Roberts: Yeah. I don't know too much about that, but that's exactly the way it works. Right.
[00:49:17] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:49:18] Spencer Roberts: And so, yeah, they found that 10 to 26 percent of these fishing vessels have these navigation patterns consistent with human trafficking. And they estimated a hundred thousand workers have been enslaved on their collective decks over the period of the study. So we're talking about up to a quarter of fishing vessels with enslaved workers on board, and those are all the biggest ones. So the actual proportion of global fish catch is higher. Global slavery index estimates that 39 percent of the global fish catch is at high risk for being caught by forced labor.
[00:49:50] Jordan Harbinger: They offload the fish onto another boat. So the ship they're kept on just never docks, never sees land. This is sort of conservatively, tens of thousands of men that have been enslaved according to the NGOs at possibly over a hundred thousand, and then you'd mentioned — or at least I saw this in one of the articles — up to 25 percent of fishing vessels may have forced labor on deck. And that actually includes, this is a global average. So it's not like the United States has totally clean ships. Apparently it happens with US boats too. I don't know how you would get away with that, but I guess it's possible.
[00:50:20] Spencer Roberts: Right. Like this one in Hawaii I was talking about, I don't know all the details, but basically it was like a compound that these guys were fenced in with high security. They couldn't escape and yeah, just sort of rotated in and out on these boats. Yeah. It's absolutely a global problem.
[00:50:35] Jordan Harbinger: Imagine going out for a few drinks and then you wake up on a ship and you're forced to work around the clock for literally years. And nobody knows where you are. Like, people think you're dead, right. They just think, "Oh, he went out one night and he like ran away or got murdered."
[00:50:48] Spencer Roberts: And then some of them, you know, finally get repatriated to their homes and their communities after like a decade and they'll come back and everyone thought they're dead. Their wife has remarried and stuff. Like, it sucks.
[00:50:59] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, their kids are grown up. Like if you had a six year old, now they're 18. And they're like, "Hey guy, that I don't remember, really." That's terrible. God, obviously, it goes without saying the companies that employ slave labor and keep people in prison for decades on the ship at high seas unlawfully, they're not trying to follow sustainability requirements and only catch legal fish, in legal legal areas, right? I mean, if you're doing this horrible thing that should net you the death penalty in pretty much any corner of the world or at least a life sentence, you're not really worried about mislabeling your fish or like environmental destruction.
[00:51:35] Spencer Roberts: No, it's the seafood vendors who do all that. So they'll buy, there's often many steps in between and the fish becomes more expensive as you keep trading it but a lot of the time, the seafood vendors actually don't have any idea where the fish came from. It happens way earlier at the fish market, this mislabeling and all this kind of thing. So there's no way to trace this stuff. We can trace the genetics of the fish, but as far as the country of origin, the gear, and especially the labor practices, it's really though.
[00:52:05] Jordan Harbinger: So anytime you buy or order fish, there's just a decent chance it was caught by actual slaves.
[00:52:10] Spencer Roberts: Absolutely.
[00:52:10] Jordan Harbinger: Which is insane.
[00:52:11] Spencer Roberts: Yeah.
[00:52:12] Jordan Harbinger: Spencer, thank you very much. I think I'm going to go eat a salad instead of anything else, but who knows? Don't even tell me that vegetables are cut and farmed by slaves. Actually, now that I think about it, that there has been plenty of that too, but that's a different episode. And I can't stop eating entirely. I'm going to leave it there.
[00:52:30] Spencer Roberts: Right. We just got to know about — the best thing you can do is understand the companies that you're buying from, but the industries and how they work, and you can sort of weigh them against each other.
[00:52:39] Thanks so much for the opportunity, Jordan.
[00:52:43] Jordan Harbinger: I've got some thoughts on this one, but before I get into that, here's a sample of my interview with scam buster Coffeezilla. Whether you or a loved one is being tempted by sketchy investment opportunities, MLM traps, fake guru-led operations, understanding how to identify them and the mechanisms by which they work is the best chance you can have of putting a stop to their shenanigans, here's a quick look inside.
[00:53:06] Coffeezilla: You see an ad and it's of some guru, you've seen before, you haven't seen before. Let's say, Jordan, you're the guru for today. And you tell me, "Oh, come to my free webinar. It's always free." And it's always going to teach me how to get rich. There's no investment that I initially think I have to make. So I go to your webpage. I give you my email and I sign up for this live webinar. It's never live. They've pre-recorded. It it's a three hour sales pitch for their $2,000 course. And they basically tell you, "Look at all these people who have had success." They will show you the Forbes article that they have. But they'll not tell you that they purchased it. They'll say, "Hey, look, how successful I am." They put themselves in your shoes. They know that their average buyer is broke, you know, disaffected. Everything he's been trying hasn't worked. And they say, "I was just like you. I was where you are and I bounced around and I made all these mistakes until I found the one secret. And I will tell you that secret to get you from A to Z. It took me five years to get to a million dollars. I'll teach you, Jordan, how to do it, a proven blueprint, in one year. I'll take you from loser where I used to be. I used to be a loser like you, and I'll take you to winter where I am now. And I'll take you there, blueprint guaranteed. No problem. Look at all the testimonials. Sign up baby, right, right, right right now." And then they go, "Hey, my course, normally I'd sell it for $40,000. Normally, it's a hundred thousand dollars worth of value, but just this second for the next 50 minutes. I will give this to you for $2,000." And they're coaching you through the little credit card application.
[00:54:34] Jordan Harbinger: You're on the phone with a credit card company. They're coaching you to do this.
[00:54:36] Coffeezilla: You're like sitting there and they're like, "Hey, this is what you're going to say. Go ahead, call them right now. And let's swipe that card, baby. Let's swipe that card before you leave the seminar." They're left with a $40,000 collection debt, you know, for a high interest rate that can't pay it back. They're not making the money they were promised. And then there's a money back guarantee. There's not a money back.
[00:54:56] Jordan Harbinger: To hear more about how to expose predatory shysters for what they are by delving into their shady manipulation tasks, check out episode 368 of The Jordan Harbinger Show with Coffeezilla.
[00:55:08] It is just crazy to me how they discovered the slavery on the boats, the documentary, which we'll link in the show notes. There's guys that were just like living in other countries and started new families and they were missing hands. And there were these sort of, I guess you would say, jungle legends instead of an urban legend, like a guy that just swam to shore really far or jumped off a boat and it's supposedly from this other far away land, like Burma, and is now on a remote island with a new family and his family back in Burma thinks he's dead. It's just crazy. They're living among, you know, native populations that don't have a ton of contact and they've just lived there for 10 or 20 years and restarted their life. Just absolutely bananas. And unreal levels of human cruelty here towards not only our environment, but other humans as well. And I guess if you're willing to treat the environment, and fish, and animals at a certain way, then it's not a huge stretch to see that you might do that with people as well. I mean, these are just truly some horrific figures in this industry and tragic goings on that I'm glad I know about now.
[00:56:06] Big thank you to Spencer Roberts. Everything will be linked in the show notes as far as resources from this conversation. And if you do buy anything from our guests, you know, books or anything that they happen to write, please use the links on the website. It does help support the show. Transcripts are in the show notes. There's a video of this interview going up on our YouTube channel at jordanharbinger.com/youtube. I'm at @JordanHarbinger on both Twitter and Instagram, or just hit me on LinkedIn.
[00:56:30] I'm teaching you how to connect with great people and manage relationships using the same software systems and tiny habits that I use. That's our Six-Minute Networking course. And that course is free. It's over at jordanharbinger.com/course. Dig that well before you get thirsty. Most of the guests on the show, subscribe and contribute to the course. Come join us, you'll be in smart company where you belong.
[00:56:50] This show is created in association with PodcastOne. My team is Jen Harbinger, Jase Sanderson, Robert Fogarty, Millie Ocampo, Ian Baird, Josh Ballard, and Gabriel Mizrahi. Remember, we rise by lifting others. The fee for the show is that you share it with friends when you find something useful or interesting. If you know somebody who's into environmentalism or, you know, eats a lot of fish and you kind of want to ruin it for them, share this episode with them. I hope you find something great in every area. Please share the show with those you care about. In the meantime, do your best to apply what you hear on the show, so you can live what you listen, and we'll see you next time.
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