Sebastian Troëng, Vice President, Marine Conservation, Conservation International
Ian Olson, Director of Sustainability, Darden Restaurants

There is a direct connection between healthy oceans and U.S. economic and national security interests. Ensuring sustainable fisheries worldwide increases U.S. and global food security, provides jobs to Americans, secures supply chains for U.S. corporations, and reduces competition for increasingly scarce resources that can lead to instability.

As the world’s population grows from 7 billion to 9 billion people by 2050, the demand for food, water and energy is expected to double.

In 2009, ocean-related jobs employed 2.5 million people in coastal U.S. states and contributed almost $223 billion to the U.S. GDP.

Darden Restaurants, the largest full-service chain of restaurants in the world, is concerned about the pressure increased populations and protein consumption will exert on global seafood supply.

In 2010, 86% of the seafood consumed in the U.S. was imported. U.S. companies’ ability to secure supply long-term chains and source sustainable seafood depends on fisheries being well-managed in the countries where the seafood originates from.

Darden is working in partnerships with communities, its supply base, and other businesses, to improve fisheries around the world and secure its supply chains.

Worldwide, it has been estimated that the global loss from poorly managed fisheries is in the order of $50 billion per year. Illegal and unreported fishing is responsible for catching 11 to 26 million tons of fish each year, valued at between $10 billion and $23.5 billion annually and represents between 12 and 29% of the documented global wild fisheries catch.

In extreme cases, when illegal fishing goes unchecked and local fish stocks collapse, impoverished coastal dwellers turn to illegal activities, as has taken place in Somalia, where collapsing fish stocks and declining catch has driven some fishermen to turn to piracy as a more lucrative pursuit.

We need to continue pursuing solutions that are generating improved ocean health and well-being for people and businesses.  The effectiveness of these and other solutions will be measured by the Ocean Health Index, a collaborative scientific analysis undertaken by Conservation International, National Geographic Society, New England Aquarium, University of California at Santa Barbara and the University of British Columbia, and is supported by Darden and other donors. Like the Dow Jones measures the health of the stock market, the Ocean Health Index will measure the health of our oceans and how well they are able to sustainably provide the benefits we expect – seafood, clean water, jobs and livelihoods, and seven other categories of benefits.