Go fish: Top-selling live seafood not allowed in Nevada anymore

Go fish: Top-selling live seafood not allowed in Nevada anymore
Published: Jun. 30, 2023 at 10:42 PM PDT
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LAS VEGAS, Nev. (FOX5) - A staple of many cuisines in the Las Vegas Valley will no longer be available starting Saturday. Blue tilapia is one of two fish, along with the Australian redclaw crayfish, that won’t be allowed in Nevada if it’s alive.

Sea Tak, a wholesale live fish distributor in Las Vegas, depends heavily on live blue tilapia. Co-owner Tony Pappas says the vast majority of fish in his warehouse are blue tilapia, with largemouth bass making up a small minority.

“Our total gross sales is about 85% of this live Tilapia and we will no longer have that,” fellow co-owner Michelle Jeannest told FOX5 Friday.

Pappas and Jeannest won’t be able to apply for a renewal of their license to carry live tilapia because of a new policy adopted by the Nevada Department of Wildlife.

“They tend to end up in our local waterways and they create a lot of damage to the environment,” explained Doug Nielsen, Conservation Education Supervisor at NDOW. “It’s not its natural environment, but people release the fish there anyway. Those fish propagate at an alarming rate and then they out-compete the native fish species.”

Nielsen says that recently, a blue tilapia was released in the Muddy River system and almost drove a native fish species to extinction.

“It took us a five-year program with costs exceeding $600 thousand just to eradicate them from that river alone,” Nielsen explained.

Jeannest says the impact of the loss of her blue tilapia permit will be enormous, and not just for her business, which she says won’t survive without it.

“The reality of it is that the Asian community is the one that will suffer from this decision,” Jeannest said.

If tilapia is not sold live, it loses most of its value and its appeal to customers. Pappas says it might take a year to get a replacement fish ready to be sold live.

“The problem with that is you have to be able to have a farm, raise them, get them health inspected to bring them to the market,” he said. “But tilapia is already established.”

NDOW told FOX5 it will work with wholesalers like Sea Tak to phase out live blue tilapia over time, since they were only notified of the change when they reapplied for their permits to carry the fish earlier this week.

“People just need to go forward in good faith and do what they need to do to get them on ice as quickly as they can,” Nielsen assured.