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Why this award-winning TV producer is committing his life to trout fishing: 'It's insane that we aren't doing more'

"I don't think the glass is half full or half empty, the glass is refillable.

Andrew Zimmerman

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Award-winning writer, producer, and director David E. Kelley (L.A. Law, Ally McBeal, Big Little Lies) is the biggest trout farmer in America.

Yup, you read that right. 

Kelley is the founder of Riverence, the largest grower of steelhead and rainbow trout in North America, with nearly 20 sustainably-managed farms in Idaho and Washington State that are rated a "Best Choice" green option by the Monterey Bay Seafood Watch.  

Sharing a common passion for fishing, Kelley and host and celebrity chef Andrew Zimmern (Bizarre Foods, 12-time James Beard and Emmy-award winner) are executive producers of a new four-part television series about the climate solutions found in "blue foods," which are foods sourced from the 71% of our planet made up of water. 

Kelley grew up fishing — saying he "writes to [to be able to] fish" — and as a boy, Zimmern's mother took him to the edge of the water in Long Island and warned, "This isn't going to last." She was right. We're now witnessing salmon stocks die, snow crabs disappear, and oysters dwindle in what was previously the most oyster-rich area. 

But it doesn't have to be that way. "Hope in the Water," which was recently previewed at an event hosted by The Lodge at Blue Sky during the Sundance Film Festival, looks at innovations that promise to heal our oceans while simultaneously creating a more sustainable food source. 

"How can we save our oceans, and feed a hungry world?" actress Julia Ormond narrates. "What if it's possible to do both?" 

"I don't think the glass is half full or half empty, the glass is refillable. There is no better time to start than now," Zimmern told the crowd at Sundance. "The science is out there to provide the answers. There are people working on the actual solutions, and we can collectively make a difference every time we put a fork onto a plate."

The series introduces viewers to a Scottish fisherman and grandfather, who says, "I'm no environmentalist, I'm just from the community." 

He embarked on a 13-year project to create a one-square-mile "no take zone" in the bay, "to let nature go back to itself." In less than four years, the area's growth surpassed expectations. 

"If we manage our fisheries more efficiently, they'll produce three times more food," the fisherman says, inspired to create a better future for his granddaughter. "If there's no fish, no marine environment, what are you leaving for the next generation?" 

They also take viewers to Philadelphia, where "Fishadelphia" aspires to connect Philadelphia's diverse communities with fresh, local seafood through a community fish program, similar to a local CSA produce box. 

"We have to produce 60% more food in the next 3 decades in a system that is already overburdened," said Jennifer Bushman, founder of Fed By Blue and a producer of the series. "Three billion people rely on blue foods as their only source of food every day."

The solution, Bushman says, lies partially in sustainable fishing, including responsibly-farmed seafood, produced by farmers that are "doing good work on the water just like your favorite farmer at the farmer's market," including David E. Kelley's trout farmers.

Zimmern believes "aquaculture" will result in good jobs and healthier, less expensive food for everyone.

"This is not red or blue or purple, this is not political, this is civics 101 - help other people," Zimmern said passionately. "22-26% of Americans do not know where the first two meals of the next two days will come from."

"We have the solution to feeding people, and the biggest one we're not taking advantage of is farming a water animal," he added. "It's insane that we aren't doing more to push that solution forward." 

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