If you’re a recreational angler, you might want to reconsider that next family trip to Red Lobster or the Olive Garden. In spending your money at one of these Darden restaurants, you are supporting a restaurant chain that does not support you.
In fact, it’s not unreasonable to say that Darden is no friend to fishermen. As the recreational angling industry argues for a greater share of red snapper, the chain has come down squarely on the side of commercial fishing.
In fact, a recent article in the Orlando Sentinel says this:
“Even Darden Restaurants — which has seafood on the menu of all of its 1,900 restaurants — supports the quotas. In a letter last June to the Gulf Management Council, the company called for a continuation of the quota, though it said commercial fishers should be allotted more and recreational anglers less.”
Now before I told you about this situation, I wanted to make absolutely sure of the facts. To do that, I had to track down the letter. You’ll find it here.
After reading it, though, I still wasn’t certain of Darden’s position. That’s why I asked Mike Leonard, Ocean Resource Policy Director for the American Sportfishing Association, to take a look at it.
Here is what he said:
“I too am a little fuzzy on some of the specifics in that letter, but it is clear to me that they’re calling for a review of the red snapper allocation, and imply that more of the quota should be given to the commercial sector.
“Not surprising that a seafood company would want a greater supply of red snapper, just like it’s not surprising that anglers want more fish made available for them to catch!
“The difference is that we have an increasing body of data that demonstrate the significantly greater economic value (some showing an order of magnitude or more) that these fish hold when caught recreationally vs. commercially.”
In other words, more and more evidence reveals that recreational fishing for red snapper (and other “mixed fishery” species) is more beneficial to the economy than commercial fishing. Now add in the fact that recreational fishing for marine species accounts for only about 2 percent of harvest.
Check out Comparing NOAA’s Recreational and Commercial Fishing Economic Data to learn more.
And how about this from a background document on the grouper fishery provided me by Leonard:
“A recent presentation to the socioeconomic science and statistical committee (SESSC) of the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council by two NOAA Fisheries Service economists showed that recreational value for grouper far outstrips commercial value in the grouper fishery.
“These economists concluded that the current allocation is economically inefficient and to increase efficiency and maximize the value to the nation, the allocation should be moved towards the recreational sector.”
If you do decide to keep patronizing Darden restaurants, you might want have a chat with the local restaurant manager about this issue, or, even better, you might want to write a letter to the chain, expressing your displeasure with a policy that disrespects a significant portion of its customers and their families.
As Leonard pointed out, it’s not unreasonable that a seafood company wants more fish to sell in its restaurants. But if it drives away customers by antagonizing them, what’s the point?