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Meet a CSA Chef: Steve Phelps

The Coalition for Sustainable Aquaculture is proud to uplift the voices of our members. In this series, we will interview the chefs who are members of CSA. We’ll learn what inspires them, what aquaculture means to the food they create, and why they advocate for sustainable aquaculture.    

Let’s hear from Chef Steve Phelps, an award-winning chef who co-owns Indigenous in Sarasota, FL.  

steve phelps
Chef Steve Phelps

Why did you join the CSA? 

My involvement with the CSA came from many years of working as a chef with a passion for seafood sustainability and becoming totally immersed in studying more about aquaculture. I wanted to see how I could help the U.S. bring more awareness into our food systems and understand the necessity of fish farming. 


What does sustainable seafood mean to you personally and/or from a community-wide perspective? 

Sustainability is about maintaining a way of life we can all enhance our future from. Using our resources wisely—environmentally, economically, and being able to create an equitable society to ensure a good way of living. This is vital to uphold communities by continuing to be mindful of our daily activities avoiding overconsumption and waste, etc. Honestly, it’s truly about hope.

As an avid fisherman and resident of Florida’s beautiful Gulf Coast, how did you become so engaged in aquaculture? Do you have a unique story about farm-raised seafood that helped shift your paradigm on the subject?

Aquaculture sparked my interest even more after experiencing the negative impacts in my daily activities. I go fishing often, and I know it’s getting more and more difficult to catch the same number of fish. That place that was once a favorite fishing spot simply doesn’t yield the same catch as before.  

As a chef and restaurant owner, that also became apparent when my fish monger said, “Sorry but the boats came back light today, chef.” I realized we have another option as chefs, and that includes finding properly farmed finfish and shellfish that could support our menus with better consistency. A brief visit to Mote Marine’s Aquapark, seeing sturgeon being farm raised years back, opened my eyes even wider.

How do you see aquaculture playing a role in advancing food equity in the Gulf Coast, and across the United States?

steve phleps fishing
Chef Steve Phelps is an avid fisherman. (Photo credit: Sammy Monsour)

As a restaurant owner on the coast of Florida, we have been absolutely thrilled to see the response from guests trying more and more farmed seafood. Indigenous, my Sarasota restaurant, subconsciously had almost all farmed seafood items on the menu for about six months. Seeing as our guests were mostly northerners, we were blown away to see them eating our farmed fish in record numbers. They were not asking “Where is the mahi? Tuna?” They were trusting the chef and our teams for the education and deliciousness of these newer species that were premium farmed fish.


Why is the SEAfood Act important to you, and what do you want decision-makers to know about sustainably advancing aquaculture into offshore federal waters? 

We now have policies that keep the U.S. leaders in the seafood sustainability category. The Magnuson-Stevens Act and the Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing Enforcement Act have done a lot to secure that, but we have more work to do to create more available proteins. This will help our economy, the oceans, rivers, and lakes. The SEAfood Act will help us create opportunities to build farms offshore in the U.S. that continue in this direction. My restaurant relies on seafood sustainability, and we need this to survive.