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Hope on the Water


Star-studded docuseries Hope in the Water explores sustainable solutions in fishing and aquaculture

Television producer David E. Kelley has brought viewers a jaw-dropping array of TV series over the decades, including L.A. Law, Boston Legal, Ally McBeal, Big Little Lies, The Undoing and many more.

Kelley’s latest project, however, is a change of pace: his first-ever documentary series, delving into some of the more innovative efforts underway in the world of sustainable aqua-farming and fisheries.

Hope in the Water on PBS. Pictured: Purple sea urchins are being harvested throughout the world.

While that may seem out of character for Kelley, he’s long been interested in the subject; when he’s not producing critically acclaimed TV content, he’s focused on running his own fish-farming operation, producing steelhead trout.

The project comes from Intuit Content, the production company of Andrew Zimmern, best known to TV viewers as the onetime host of Bizarre Foods.

Hope in the Water on PBS. Pictured: Fishing boats docked at Barnegat Light, New Jersey.

Producing the series alongside Kelley, Zimmern appeared on a panel at the Television Critics Association press tour, where he praised Kelley’s commitment to sustainable aquaculture. “I think that he would describe himself first and foremost as a fisherman and a TV guy second,” Zimmern said.

Hope in the Water features such luminaries as Shailene Woodley, Martha Stewart, José Andrés and Baratunde Thurston, who guide viewers through the various innovations taking place in how food is harvested from oceans and lakes.

Hope in the Water on PBS. Pictured: Left: Martha Stewart is among the celebs shining the spotlight on sustainable solutions in aquaculture. Right: America Outdoors host Baratunde Thurston is part of Hope in the Water.

For Woodley, who’s carved out a niche as an environmental activist in tandem with her successful acting career, Hope in the Water proved to be more educational than she’d anticipated. “I mean, I didn’t know anything about sea urchins before doing this show and I learned a lot and I was shocked,” she explained. “I mean, they go through so much kelp in a matter of days . . . right now, due to certain things in our environment and the changing temperatures in the water, there isn’t the amount of kelp that these animals need to thrive.”

Hope in the Water on PBS. Pictured: Hawaiian kanpachi hatchery at Blue Ocean Mariculture in Hawai’i.

As Woodley explained, she’s long felt a connection to the ocean. “I grew up in Los Angeles, so the ocean was something that I was fortunate enough to be around,” she said. “Which is why the show to me is so important and so meaningful because it’s not about humans trying to save something that’s outside of us, it’s about recognizing that we are innately part of this ecosystem. And until we do our part and take responsibility for what’s happened and also find the solution and be active in our role of activating the solution, we’re going to find ourselves in the stasis that we’re in right now. So it’s important to recognize the problem but then it’s also so beautiful and so vital to recognize that we can do something about it.”

As Zimmern noted, Hope in the Water shines the spotlight on the vast improvements in aquaculture that have taken place over the past decade or so.

Hope in the Water on PBS. Pictured: Shailene Woodley at the Cultured Abalone Farm in Goleta, California.

“So aquaculture, especially when it’s done at sea . . . we know how to do all of it safely, we know how to do all of it securely, and we need those systems in place to be invested in so that we can feed this hungry planet as we progress to the next few decades and address our existential climate crises,” he said. “If we’re not doing this — investing in these important ways of which we can harvest food in our oceans and both protect them and produce from them, then we’re in very big trouble. But we are doing it — companies out there are doing it the right way and it’s incredible what the science has done . . . It’s a radical new world out there.”

One key takeaway from Hope in the Water is the fact that the majority of the world consumes just three species of fish, among the thousands available.

Hope in the Water on PBS. Pictured: Hi’ilei Kawelo, one of the subjects profiled in the docuseries, fishing at a historic Hawaiian fishpond in O’ahu’s Kāneʻohe Bay.

“The over-reliance on just a few species of fish has driven the price up,” ZImmern explained. “It has created what in terrestrial farming is referred to as monocultures, and it has created an incredible imbalance in our food system. I truly think if we can expand people’s diets and their ideas of what is food, we would obviously — it’s a quid pro quo — lessen the pressure, not only on other forms of seafood, but on factory farms that are producing chicken. I don’t think anything is more important in terms of how we eat than diversifying the types of seafood that we will take out of our oceans.”

In that respect, educating consumers to embrace other types of seafood is a key component in successful sustainability.  As Thurston jokingly pointed out, “There are literally other fish in the sea.”

Hope in the Water premieres Wednesday, June 19 on KCTS

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