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Advancing Ethical Practices in Seafood Sourcing

January 27, 2014

By: Brandon Tidwell, Brandon Tidwell is Manager of Sustainability for Darden Restaurants.

Advancing Ethical Practices in Seafood Sourcing

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These are just a sample of the questions asked of four distinguished panelists during a seminar at the University of Florida titled, "Advancing Ethical Practices in Seafood Sourcing."

The Poe Center for Business Ethics Education and Research hosted a panel of experts to answer questions from students, faculty and members of the community. Sponsored by Darden Restaurants, the evening allowed attendees to ask a host of questions related to aquaculture, catch shares and marketplace certification programs. Panelists included:

  • Laurel Bryant, Chief of External Affairs, NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service
  • Dr. Kevan Main, Director of the Mote Marine Laboratory’s Aquaculture Research Park
  • Dr. Steve Otwell, Florida Sea Grant seafood specialist
  • TJ Tate, Sustainability Director of My Gulf Wild

Many of the panelists shared how seafood is one of the healthiest, most popular proteins available to feed a rapidly growing global population. Laurel Bryant of NOAA was quick to add how seafood harvested from a U.S. federal fishery is the most responsibly managed in the world, giving consumers confidence when purchasing seafood sourced from U.S. waters. Unfortunately, according to Dr. Otwell, the demand for seafood is steadily growing and even with expanding aquaculture, we simply won’t have enough supply to meet the global demand. He recommended consumers become more informed about the seafood they purchase today and consider learning about and consuming less familiar species, including Branzino (currently on the menu at Seasons 52), Cobia, Barramundi and Basa.

The panel also discussed the critical role of aquaculture to relieve pressure on wild fisheries. Today, almost 90% of the world’s aquaculture takes place in Asia. Dr. Kevan Main, former President of the World Aquaculture Society, discussed the need to support greater investment in aquaculture development in Africa, Latin America and especially the United States. Laurel Bryant shared NOAA’s perspective on aquaculture and the need for the federal government (which manages many wild fisheries) and the states (which would manage all types of aquaculture production) to better collaborate to create more fish, more jobs and less dependence in the United States on seafood imports. In fact, the U.S. seafood trade deficit exceeded $11.5 billion annually in 2011 – resulting in a trade deficit second only to oil.

Finally, the panel shared some of the innovations they believed would change fisheries in the near future. TJ Tate of My Gulf Wild is leading one of the innovative projects in the Gulf of Mexico, piloting an Electronic Monitoring System to improve monitoring of the Grouper and Red Snapper populations. Laurel Bryant of NOAA echoed TJ’s excitement for electronic monitoring and shared how NOAA was using satellite-technology to better analyze the health of various seafood species and mammals in U.S. waters.  Dr. Main and Dr. Otwell shared their excitement about emerging technologies, including integrated aquaculture systems that use fish waste to grow plants.

In the end, the panel outlined the complexity of global fisheries and the massive amount of information consumers have to decipher to purchase sustainably sourced seafood. The panel recommended:

  • Learn as much as you can about seafood from as many sources as possible.
  • Rarely are fisheries ‘good’ or ‘bad’ – sustainability is a journey and fisheries are at different stages.
  • Ask questions at the grocery store, at restaurants and from experts who know about sustainably harvested and farmed seafood.

At Darden, seafood stewardship is a high priority and we understand the need to preserve this resource. That is why our purchasing practices support and encourage sustainable fisheries. We also partner with organizations such as the New England Aquarium to help guide us in our commitment to maintaining an ethical and sustainable supply chain.

Click here to learn more and watch the panel discussion.

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