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Red Lobster, Publix back effort to replenish gulf grouper, red snapper stocks

Two of the biggest buyers and sellers of Florida seafood — Publix Super Markets and the parent of Red Lobster restaurants — are helping bankroll an initiative to revive red snapper and grouper fishing grounds in the Gulf of Mexico that have been severely stressed by overfishing.

While no financial details were disclosed, the partnership was announced Wednesday at the Clinton Global Initiative annual meeting in New York.

"We share a common vision to improve fisheries and move the seafood sustainability conversation forward," said Michael Hewett, director of environmental and sustainability programs for Lakeland-based Publix, which first contributed to the effort in 2010.

Most supermarket and restaurant chains that sell seafood have been criticized for years by marine scientists and other activist groups for not taking a leadership role in the health of oceans.

But the effort is another sign chains that gave critics the cold shoulder are warming up.

The initial effort will be done by the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership, a Honolulu nonprofit looking for new tactics to replenish fish stocks and avoid environmental drawbacks of fish farming.

The program includes tests of fishing gear that doesn't wipe out sea turtles, better ways to measure fish populations and camera monitoring experiments to limit illegal fishing. For more on the Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Shareholders' Alliance, a nonprofit trade association of fishermen, see its website at www.mygulfwild.org.

"We have always felt the answer to sustainable seafood lies in this sort of collaborative approach," said Rich Jeffers, spokesman for Darden Restaurants Inc., Orlando-based owner of Red Lobster, Olive Garden and Seasons 52.

Mark Albright can be reached at albright@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8252.

Red Lobster, Publix back effort to replenish gulf grouper, red snapper stocks 09/21/11 [Last modified: Thursday, September 22, 2011 2:09pm]
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