Darden's origins trace back to the first Red Lobster restaurant that opened in 1968 and, today, we are one of the largest purchasers of seafood in the United States. In fact, seafood is the single largest item in Darden's overall 'food basket,' making up more than 30 percent of the total food we buy. We have a vested interest in ensuring that the supply of seafood on which we rely remains available, affordable and meets the quality and safety standards we expect. Clearly, no single entity can solve the challenge of creating and supporting sustainable fisheries alone, but Darden is firmly committed to working with others to be a catalyst for positive change.
In FY2011, Darden announced a commitment to rebuilding troubled fisheries through three targeted Fishery Improvement Projects. The commitment is part of Darden's membership in the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) and was recognized by CGI as an exemplary approach to addressing environmental challenges. The initial FIP was launched in partnership with Publix Super Markets and Sustainable Fisheries Partnership in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico. The focus is to support the rebuilding of commercial reef fish fisheries, primarily grouper and red snapper, using several tools including the development of data collection methods to enhance management, testing different gear types to reduce interactions with sea turtles, and building new markets for the fish as populations recover. We maintain, and regularly update, a list of species that we do not buy due to overfishing. We have committed to require that all of our aquaculture products be certified to Global Aquaculture Alliance (GAA) standards, as they become available.
In FY2009, Darden helped launch the Atlantic Lobster Sustainability Foundation, a nonprofit organization that works with fisherman, processors, buyers, government agencies and other stakeholders to preserve and enhance a viable, strong and sustainable lobster industry. Darden provided $200,000 in seed money, and continues to play an active role in the organization. (see www.lobstersustainability.ca)
We are continuing to work with our aquaculture suppliers to help them implement the GAA "best aquaculture practices" standards. The GAA standards cover environment, social responsibility, animal welfare, food safety and traceability issues, and Darden's goal is to have all of our aquaculture products certified to GAA standards as they become available. There are standards for shrimp, tilapia, catfish and, most recently, salmon (launched in 2011). Darden was a co-founder of the GAA, and continues to play an active role in the organization.