Sourcing Sustainable Seafood in Las Vegas

By Lila Asnani, Foodable Contributor

According to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, Las Vegas welcomed a record of 41.1 million visitors in 2014. Las Vegas is ranked as the 4th most visited city in the U.S. for 2015 according to TripAdvisor. Traveler’s Digest ranked Las Vegas as the 6th most popular city for foreign tourists in 2013.

Las Vegas is repeatedly touted as an oasis in the desert by travel publications. Unlike most oases though, Las Vegas does not have an abundance of water nearby so it has to import almost all of its food. Nowhere is this more evident than in the import of seafood to this city, which is undoubtedly a popular food destination.

Seafood in Las Vegas

Supreme Lobster is a seafood company that imports, processes, and distributes seafood in Las Vegas. About 60 percent of their products are fin fish and 40 percent are shellfish, according to John Sands, the buyer for the company. Collectively, about 60 percent of everything they import comes from overseas and 40 percent is domestic. 

Supreme Lobster sells frozen and fresh seafood primarily to restaurants and hotels, and brought in about 30 million pounds of seafood to Las Vegas in 2014. Sands estimates that about 70-80 million pounds of seafood are brought in collectively every year, when you add other seafood distributors within the city. This makes Las Vegas a first-tier city comparable to New York, Seattle, and Los Angeles in terms of quantity and quality of seafood consumed.

Supreme Lobster is committed to purchasing and providing sustainable seafood. They follow guidelines recommended by Sustainable Seafood NGOs, like Monterey Bay Aquarium, which is trying to help consumers and businesses make choices for healthy oceans.

Lawrence Manheim, the Sales Representative from Supreme Lobster, stresses that they only buy from licensed contractors who are authorized to sell products for consumer consumption. Purchasing from licensed contractors ensures that the products come from suppliers who comply with standards for catching and processing fish according to sustainability standards. This also allows them to have traceability which establishes strict quality control.

Reducing the Carbon Footprint

Supreme Lobster tries to reduce its overall carbon footprint by flying in all products on passenger planes. (“A 2014 study by the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute found that in the U.S., flying from place to place actually consumes significantly less energy, and hence produces significantly fewer emissions than driving does,” slate.com reported.)

Flying their products on passenger airlines allows the company greater flexibility because passenger planes fly more frequently than cargo planes. It also produces a fresher product because the seafood is not on a truck for several days. Flying the fish in daily guarantees that “the fish that you get in Vegas is as good and fresh as the fish that you get in Boston,” says Manheim. 

Sustainability is important to Supreme Lobster because “it is our livelihood. If we’re not proactive, we could be out of business. We sell fish so we have seen certain species vanish firsthand… There is only a finite amount of fish and moratoriums and quotas do work because certain fish that were not available 4-5 years ago, are now available again. It’s important for us to sell fish but it’s more important that 5 years from now, we still have fish to sell” says Manheim.

Sands adds that “the general consumer wants and believes in sustainability but it is difficult to balance cost (when cod cost more than hamburger) ... so the seafood industry needs to do more work to keep cost down while moving the sustainability movement forward. We try to keep the cost down by smart purchasing, knowing when to buy and keeping track of markets and what’s going on. If a typhoon happens in Asia and it is going to affect the fish we have been buying, we buy immediately vs waiting. Sometimes prices can double if we even wait a day. The seafood industry is the only hunting and gathering industry left. Everything else is either farmed or manufactured. Someone goes out and hunts for you on a daily basis so if you educate your consumers, they will understand why it cost more and why it’s a great product.”

Estiatorio Milos

Estiatorio Milos is a premier Greek seafood restaurant at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, and is the brainchild of prominent chef and restaurateur Costas Spiliadis.

Spiliadis, who is from Greece, says, “Milos is all about the art of simplicity; finding the freshest and most delicious fish and ingredients worldwide and preparing them in the subtlest way which showcases their freshness.” 

All of their seafood is flown in daily, and Supreme Lobster is one of the distributors they work with to get American seafood.

Spiliadis has worked closely with fishermen from the Mediterranean for over 30 years to advance his beliefs about sustainable seafood consumption. “We wholeheartedly support responsible fishing and adhere religiously to existing laws pertaining to sustainability," he says. "Cost is never the determining factor because we are all focused on ensuring responsible sourcing and a level of freshness and quality which is expected of us.” 

In addition to Las Vegas, New York, Miami, Athens, and Montreal, Spiliadis recently opened a restaurant in London, proving that being a responsible steward of the ocean can certainly be good and profitable for business.