Las Vegas Sun

July 17, 2018

Currently: 92° — Complete forecast

To keep our plates full, keep our oceans plentiful

Las Vegas is surrounded by a desert in a land-locked state, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at our menus.

Our restaurants serve up a staggering amount of seafood to the 43 million tourists who visit the city each year, including over 60,000 pounds of shrimp each day. For me and my fellow restaurateurs to meet this insatiable demand, it’s imperative that the ocean’s fisheries are managed in a sustainable way — ensuring there are plenty more fish to replace the ones we serve.

Today, the U.S. boasts some of the most sustainably managed wild fisheries in the world, making American seafood the preferred choice for many chefs, including me. But this wasn’t always the case. Through the mid-1990s, many U.S. fisheries caught fish at an unsustainable rate — depleting the ocean of the very species we find most delicious. We were essentially loving our U.S. seafood to death.

One example is West Coast groundfish, a group of species known for their flaky and tender white flesh. Less than two decades ago, these species were overfished until the federal government declared a national fishery disaster and shut the fishery down. Groundfish disappeared from the markets, and from our menus.

Fortunately, both government and industry players recognized the need to change fishing practices, and Congress made key changes to a federal law known as the Magnuson-Stevens Act. The law has since proven to be incredibly successful at rebuilding fish populations and ensuring they remain healthy. Under Magnuson-Stevens, more than 40 of our country’s fish stocks have recovered from the brink of collapse.

For chefs in Las Vegas, that means we have access to more sustainable U.S. seafood than ever — including cod, sole and sablefish. America’s science-based fisheries management has become the global standard, a source of national pride.

Unfortunately, some members of Congress, along with special interests in the commercial and recreational fishing industries, want to turn back the clock on this hard-earned success. Both the House and the Senate are considering legislation that would weaken our science-based management system and increase the likelihood of overfishing. These proposals undermine the MSA’s proven processes to recover depleted fisheries and exempt some fishermen from the accountability measures that make our system work.

One of these troublesome proposals — the Modern Fish Act — was recently brought before the Senate Commerce Committee. Our own Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., sits on that committee and stood up for our fisheries by voting against the bill. That sent a clear signal that she is not about to put our nation’s fisheries — or our state’s restaurant industry — at risk by catering to special interests in Washington. I applaud Cortez Masto for her strong leadership on this issue, and ask her to continue to work with Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., and other lawmakers to protect the interests of landlocked states that have a major stake in the future of sustainable U.S. seafood.

I encourage our congressional delegation to continue to hold the line and ensure any changes to Magnuson-Stevens are built on what works: science-based management, strong accountability and a commitment to Nevada businesses and visitors who want to enjoy sustainable seafood for generations to come. Only by keeping strong management practices in place can we be sure that after tonight’s dinner, there will be enough fish in the sea for tomorrow’s meal.

Rick Moonen owns RM Seafood at Mandalay Bay.