New Responsible Fishing Scheme makes headway in Scotland

Published on
January 12, 2016

Scotland’s largest fishing body has confirmed it will support all of its members’ applications for Responsible Fishing Scheme (RFS) certification, following the successful audits of its first two members’ vessels under the overhauled scheme. 

The Scottish White Fish Producers' Association (SWFPA), which has approximately 200 members, has made an agreement with Seafish, who developed the RFS, to fund the applications of its members. The first skippers in Scotland to be certified were brothers Brian and John Stephen from Boddam, Aberdeenshire who fish out of Peterhead with their vessels Ocean Harvest and Harvester catching haddock, cod and other whitefish. Both vessels and skippers were in the previous scheme in 2008.

Each will hold the certification for two years and participate in annual checks to ensure the standard is adhered to.
A key revision to the scheme is the focus on crew welfare. This was in response to slavery issues reported in the seafood supply chain as well as the general health and safety onboard fishing vessels.

"Looking after our six crew members is the priority while at sea. The addition of a focus on health, safety and working conditions means that our qualification under the scheme both reassures our crew and lets Brian and I know that we are doing everything within our power to have the safest voyages possible," said John Stephen.

SWFPA Inshore and Environmental Policy Coordinator Anne-Margaret Anderson said, "With our strong commitment to responsible catching practices and crew welfare, the SWFPA is delighted that our members will be some of the first in Scotland to go for certification under the re-vamped RFS.

"It is important that skippers are able to demonstrate that as well as taking a responsible attitude to the environment and sustainable fishing, they adhere to best practice when it comes to crew and conditions on board, and the RFS enables them to do that."

RFS was initially launched by Seafish in 2006 and was one of the first initiatives enabling fishing vessel owners and the supply chain to demonstrate their compliance with industry best practice on board fishing vessels and commitment to responsibly sourced seafood.

The revised scheme, which has been developed in accordance with the certification requirements of internationally recognized standard ISO17065 and is in application to be fully ISO accredited, will offer enhanced certification credibility for all of those vessel applicants who sign up. 

According to Seafish, it marks the intent of the U.K. seafood industry to be recognized worldwide for its commitment to social and welfare related issues and is currently the only program certifying crew welfare as well as responsible catching practices on vessels.

A range of seafood buyers have already backed the scheme and are committed to supporting its development, including supermarket chain Morrisons and M&J Seafoods, one of the biggest foodservice suppliers in the United Kingdom.

"In today's huge and diverse marketplace traceability and sourcing environmentally sustainable seafood is no longer enough. There is a collective call for seafood stocks to be ethically harvested too and as a result we are working with fishermen at the heart of that supply chain to meet an industry gold-standard which is globally applicable,” said Mick Bacon, RFS manager.

"With this recognition of best practice, we believe it will support and enhance their businesses, giving confidence to the supply chain, as they look to sell their produce to customers, as well as ensure their livelihoods are protected for future generations," he said.

Contributing Editor reporting from London, UK

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