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Reducing Confusion and Cost for Tomorrow's Seafood Consumers

November 18, 2013

By: Brandon Tidwell, Manager of Sustainability for Darden Restaurants

Reducing Confusion and Cost for Tomorrow's Seafood Consumers

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Seafood comes from two places: harvested from (or captured in) the oceans ("wild") or from farming either on land or in the oceans ("aquaculture"). For wild-harvest fish we capture in oceans, many species are often overfished, poorly managed or in danger of collapse. In order to reverse this trend, many companies have begun to source from certified fisheries, which guarantee responsible harvesting. Others, like us at Darden Restaurants, leverage the guidance of environmental experts, such as the New England Aquarium, to inform and guide our purchasing of seafood around the globe. Our shared goal is to support the long-term sustainability of the oceans while allowing the industry to grow.

For farmed fish, there are a number of items we must be mindful of, such as the management of fish waste, the efficiency of fish feed, and the destruction sensitive habitats. To address these concerns, many leading U.S. and European retailers use a variety of aquaculture certifications, including the Global Aquaculture Alliance or the Aquaculture Stewardship Council.

So what’s the challenge? If we are to produce 75% more seafood over the next two decades and do so sustainably, harvesters and producers need better guidance on the certifications that are effective and acceptable. There are a number of options, but there is debate in the seafood industry on the most robust, the most efficient and the most cost-effective. As certifications have grown over the past decade, so has the cost to manage these programs. Suppliers, including many of ours, need to understand which certifications address the most critical sustainability issues and have options to select the ones that make the most sense for their business model.

Consumers, especially in the U.S. and the European Union, also desire assurance that the seafood they are eating is safe, healthy and sustainable. Given the many sources and global reach of seafood production, providing consumers with information they can use to make the best choices at the grocery store or at a restaurant can be overwhelming. Certifications can help simplify the process, but which ones are actually effective and which ones are potentially green-washing? Consumers care, but they (and we) need a more simplified process and accurate information.

To help address these concerns, Darden aligned with a handful of seafood companies, including harvesters, producers and retailers, to advance the sustainability of the industry. Launched earlier this year, the Global Sustainable Seafood Initiative (GSSI) was created to develop a common, consistent and global benchmarking tool for seafood certification and labeling programs. The goal is to ensure confidence in the supply and promotion of sustainable seafood to consumers worldwide as well as promote continuous improvement in the certification programs.

While the journey has just begun with GSSI, it’s one of many efforts we are taking to ensure our guests they are not only eating the best seafood in the world, but are doing so sustainably. To learn more about Darden’s efforts, visit Darden’s Sustainability website.

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