Rick Moonen: Gulf Wild

Buying fish has become a complicated, stressful activity for many Americans. There is so much to be considered beyond the price:

Is it fresh?

Is it sustainable?

Is it from waters without too much mercury or other pollutants?

Rick Moonen is helping cross off a few of those issues. He has teemed up with the Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Shareholders Alliance, and other restaurateurs to launch Gulf Wild brand – ” a responsibly managed, safety-inspected, authentic and trackable Gulf seafood product.”

Super Chef caught up with Rick who was in Florida cooking Gulf snapper for friends and asked him about the new branded fish:

Super Chef: How did Gulf Wild get started?

Rick Moonen: Monterey Bay’s Seafood Watch program is really popular. It is a great tool to choose sustainable species. The Gulf is the second biggest domestic seafood producer. It is a multi-billion dollar industry. The Gulf waters are an environment of perfection – they produce the “Wagyu beef” of the seafood world! The true red snapper from the Gulf is better then any other snapper. But it is also the most traded-out. People say they are selling Gulf red snapper, but they aren’t. It is bait and switch. Fish is a very perishable commodity and people aren’t always honest.

So, the fishermen got together, and copied what they are doing in British Columbia and Alaska. They created the Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Shareholders Alliance. They all participate and there is no bi-catch. That is eliminated. That is great.

Super Chef: What is bi-catch?

Rick Moonen: If I am a snapper fisherman, and you have a license for grouper, my bi-catch is anything I catch other then snapper. All of the rest gets thrown back into the water, dead. But if we work together, there is no bi-catch.

Super Chef: OK, then Gulf Wild?

Rick Moonen: We were sitting around talking, coming up on the one-year anniversary of the Gulf oil spill disaster. We came up with a tagging system to make fish traceable. The tracking system is a tag on the gills. If you plug in the number on a website, you can find out the name of the captain of the boat that caught it, where it was caught within 10 miles, as well as information on safety testing that goes way beyond what the government demands. They test for cadmium, arsenic, mercury, and dispersants.

They brought me in on the Board of Advisors. I hosted the first meeting at rm seafood at Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino a few months ago.

Super Chef: How important is this?

Rick Moonen: This is amazing! When the Monterey Bay Aquarium approves Gulf Wild, I can serve real Gulf snapper and grouper again after eight years.

Ask to see the Gulf Wild tag and check the number at http://www. mygulfwild.com.

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