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Enduring for Social and Environmental Reform in Lobster Sourcing

February 24, 2014

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

Enduring for Social and Environmental Reform in Lobster Sourcing

Lobster fishermen in Honduras. Photo by Mikael Castro/ILCP.

Photo Credit: Lobster fishermen in Honduras. Photo by Mikael Castro/ILCP.

Darden has been sourcing lobster from Central America for many years. We recently announced we would be investing further in the region’s spiny lobster fishery through a Fishery Improvement Fund (FIF). Co-founded by the Walton Family Foundation, the fund will invest in important efforts to advance the environmental and social conditions in these coastal communities. In fact, the FIF is featured as a case study in the recently launched Natural Capital Business Hub, showcasing dozens of companies investing in projects that improve ecosystems. For more information, see this recent Harvard Business Review blog.

Recently, I had the opportunity to travel to San Salvador, the capital city of El Salvador. Located in Central America, this bustling city in the mountains is the home of the United States Aid In Development (USAID) mission for not only El Salvador, but also for the Central American region. The mission was interested in working with Darden as well as a host of organizations who had come together under the Global Fish Alliance to bring social cohesion and policy reform to the region. The goal was to share current efforts and future plans and determine how the groups might continue to work together more collaboratively and reduce duplication.

One of the most challenging issues that remain is what one representative called, “The Tale of Two Fisheries” in Honduras. Currently, there is one fishery of 90 boats that use traps to capture lobster, similar to what is done in New England and how Darden sources spiny lobster. There is another fishery of 40 boats that still utilize (SCUBA) diving to capture lobster. While this may work in very shallow waters, many divers are going too deep, too long, and too often into the waters to capture lobster. This year alone, 20 Honduran divers have died and more than 200 have been injured. Over the past several decades, more than 600 divers have died and 2,000 injured or disabled. It’s a practice that must end, but numerous attempts to close the fishery have been thwarted.

This is why we endure. While we do not source from the (SCUBA) dive-caught boats, we understand the social, economic and environmental damage that is caused by this fishery and we hope to be a part of ending this practice. Today, we are working with the Center for Marine Ecology, the World Wildlife Federation (WWF), FHI-360, NOAA, the Smithsonian, and USAID to continue our push for change and reform. This spring, the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation will announce the grants from the Fishery Improvement Fund for non-governmental groups committed to advancing particular strategies, including:

  • Improving data collection and monitoring of fishing activity, including traceability
  • Promoting the development of fishery management, including the creation of an artisanal fishery
  • Strengthening local fishing cooperatives and associations by sharing best management practices

Through the Fishery Improvement Fund, we hope to create alternatives for divers and their families to exist in the industry and create a healthier, more traceable fishery for future generations. We want Honduras, the fishery and its people to thrive, and these investments will assist in this effort.

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