I’m A Coast-Less Chef Fighting for Sustainable Fishing

We may be surrounded by mountains in my home state of Colorado, but we still have a major stake in the health of our oceans and in sustainable seafood. As the executive chef of Jax Fish House, including four land-locked locations in Colorado and one in Kansas City, Missouri, I’ve made it my business to serve delicious seafood to people who live in coast-less communities but still crave fresh fish. To succeed, I depend on a healthy supply of seafood that keeps my customers coming back for more. That’s why I’m committed to offering sustainable seafood and have joined the Chefs for Fish movement.

Chef Sheila Lucero’s King Crab, Agedashi tofu, Enoki mushrooms, Meyer lemon dashi  (Sheila Lucero | Jax Fish House)

Here in the United States, we enjoy some of the most sustainably managed wild fisheries in the world, making it easy for me to serve up fresh-caught American seafood as my go-to dish of the day. But this was not always the case. Not that long ago, U.S. fisheries were in terrible shape. Many top menu items were disappearing from the ocean at an unsustainable rate.

Fortunately, a law known as the Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Conservation and Management Act (MSA), helped turn things around, rebuilding fish populations and helping to ensure they remain healthy. Thanks to this law, over-fishing today is at an historic low and chefs throughout the country—on the coasts and in landlocked states like Colorado—are able to offer a variety of U.S. seafood in our restaurants without worrying about harming the fisheries.

But, the fight for sustainable fishing isn’t over yet. Despite this progress, our lawmakers in Washington, D.C. have considered a number of proposals in recent years that would undermine the MSA. Some of these proposals would remove science-based conservation measures that ensure we do not take too many fish from the ocean. That’s why I joined a growing list of chefs like Rick Bayless, Hugh Acheson, Susan Feniger, Carrie Baird, John Ash, and Matthew Beaudin (of the Monterey Bay Aquarium), to sign the Portland Pact for Sustainable Seafood.

Chef Sheila Lucero’s Kampachi, Sticky Rice, Ponzu, Apple, Pickled Squash, Serrano & Black garlic aioli (Sheila Lucero | Jax Fish House)

The Portland Pact highlights the importance of keeping the Magnuson-Stevens Act strong, and pledges our support for sustainable U.S. fisheries. When we crafted the Portland Pact, we called out the need to protect the strong conservation measures of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, including:

  • Requiring that fisheries management decisions be science-based
  • Avoiding overfishing with catch limits and tools that hold everyone accountable for the fish that they remove from the ocean
  • Ensuring the timely recovery of depleted fish stocks

To date, more than 150 chefs representing restaurants from coast to coast—and plenty in between—have signed the Portland Pact. Additional chefs and other culinary professionals are joining us every day. Calling ourselves Chefs for Fish, we value the power of food and have immense respect for the impact our food choices have on our lives, our planet, and the lives of what we choose to eat. We think it’s important to speak up and let Congress know that we care deeply about the health of our nation’s ocean fisheries—whether we live on the coast or in the mountains.

The Magnuson-Stevens Act is the role model for the rest of the world and we need to keep it strong. Without strong conservation measures guiding the way each of us takes fish from the ocean, we open the door to overfishing and risk the long-term health of our fish stocks. And when that happens, we all lose. We urge chefs everywhere to join us, because as chefs, it’s literally our business and our responsibility to do all we can to protect these resources now and into the future.

Check out Chefs for Fish and please consider signing the Portland Pact for Sustainable Seafood!

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