International responsible fishing vessel standard gets green light

Global Seafood Assurance (GSA) can now take ownership of the Responsible Fishing Vessel Standard (RFVS) following approval of the draft international standard by the boards of both Seafish and GSA.

“We are delighted to have the RFVS approved by both boards and look forward to publicly releasing the standard in partnership with GSA soon,” Seafish Chief Executive and GSA Board Member Marcus Coleman said.

U.K. seafood trade body Seafish and not-for-profit organization GSA entered into an agreement in April 2018 to collaboratively develop the next iteration of the standard – previously known as the Responsible Fishing Scheme (RFS) – to internationalize it, and to hand over ownership from Seafish to GSA in May this year.

Development of the RFVS has been guided with input from U.K. and international seafood industry stakeholders, including the catching, processing, and retail sectors, and also standard-holders and NGOs.

This process was overseen by an independent oversight board and supported by technical working groups comprising more than 30 seafood stakeholders.

Using ILO Convention 188 and other global conventions as a base, the draft standard went through three steps ahead of its presentation to the Seafish and GSA boards for sign off: Firstly, it was scrutinized by the oversight board and international experts; secondly, on-vessel consultation audits took place in the United Kingdom, the Faroe Islands, Russia, and Peru; and lastly, the draft went through a 60-day public consultation.

“It has been a privilege to work with my fellow oversight board members through such a rigorous, open, and transparent process. RFVS certification is a great way for proud skippers to demonstrate how they look after their crew and their catch, so a big thank you to Seafish and GSA for your leadership,” Hilton Food Group CSR Director Nigel Edwards said.

The first specialist auditor training took place in Scotland in February 2020 to upskill specialist auditors to the requirements of the new standard. The next steps are the vessel certification pilots. These have been arranged in Russia, the Faroes, and in the United Kingdom with further pilots being planned in Southeast Asia and South America.

“Building a standard to help address crew welfare on fishing vessels around the world is an important first step in addressing a critical gap in seafood supply chain assurance,” Sainsbury’s Aquaculture and Fisheries Manager and GSA Board Member Ally Dingwall said. “We need to acknowledge those working to best-practice and identify those not yet working at that level. We will learn more as we start using the standard which will help us collectively address the welfare of those crews catching our seafood, where necessary.”  


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