To the layperson, our mission to Honduras may seem like simply a “nice thing to do" or a simple philanthropic activity. However, our efforts were much more profound. Darden took the lead in bringing together numerous stakeholders of the lobster industry in Honduras. We included the Honduran government’s department of fisheries, department of agriculture and department of the Navy. We also invited non-governmental organizations (Smithsonian, fhi360 and MAREA), U.S. government agencies (Department of State and NOAA), and industry participants such as Honduran lobster processors, boat owners, buyers (like Pescanova) and operators.
Our aim was to make scuba diving for lobsters an illegal activity.
Why does Darden engage our expertise, resources and staff time for this effort? Because each year, scuba diving causes the death and maiming of divers who too often develop the "bends" or nitrogen narcosis. Scuba diving also has damaging effects on the reefs as divers rampage through the nooks and crannies of the reefs looking for lobsters. Also, some divers capture all lobsters with no regard for prohibited types such as undersized and females with eggs. Whereas, trap fishing for lobsters allows undersized lobsters to escape so they can mature and breed, egg bearing females are returned to the water. Scuba diving for lobsters is simply not sustainable. Not for our business, for other businesses, for the people of Honduras, or for the global environment.
The end result of the conference was that the Honduran government stated it will end scuba diving by January 2013. They presented us with their fishery transition document and the outline of the law that will be proposed to their Congress. This is a huge step in the effort to promote sustainable lobster fishing in Honduras.
I’m proud of the fact that our company had the vision to invest in the future of this fishery and the people who depend on it for their livelihood. Darden demonstrated its ability to influence foreign governments, and our own, to institute actions that support social welfare and sustainable fishing. Our efforts will have a positive impact on the lives of others, the oceans and the global environment.
It’s actions like this that make me very proud to be part of Darden....a company that matters.
Roger Bing is Vice President of Protein Purchasing for Darden. Before joining Darden, Roger spent a good part of his career in Australasia, Europe and Africa with Union International, an integrated global primary protein production and marketing company. Roger received his Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. He is married to Melissa and they have two children, Jacquie and Erik.
Photograph is by Miguel Angel de la Cueva of the International League of Conservation Photographers, taken at theThird Annual Spiny Lobster Symposium: Transitioning and Fisheries Reform on May 29-30, 2012.