Waitrose to only source from UK vessels that are RFS certified

Published on
January 27, 2016

U.K. retailer Waitrose will insist that by 2017 all British vessels supplying its seafood must be part of the Responsible Fishing Scheme (RFS) after identifying the program as a means to demonstrate its commitment to social responsibility within its supply chains.

The RFS is currently the only program that certifies crew welfare as well as responsible catching practices on vessels. First launched in 2006 by Seafish, it has been revised to include the health and safety of crew on board, following slavery issues that have been reported internationally.

“We’re proud to add Responsible Fishing Scheme certification to our requirements for the boats that provide our U.K. landed fish. The issue of human rights abuses in any supply chain is of the utmost concern to our business and one that we believe is a pre-competitive issue that needs to be tackled head on by the industry,” said Jeremy Langley, aquaculture and fisheries manager at Waitrose.

“It is a credit to the U.K. fleet that they have been so willing to adopt this important safeguard and we are glad to be joining the list of public supporters of the RFS. We look forward to the international roll out of the scheme over the next two years,” he added.

Waitrose’s announcement follows increasing interest from the U.K. seafood supply chain, ranging from processors to major retailers and foodservice suppliers who are incorporating RFS as a condition of supply in to their sourcing policies, including Young’s, Morrisons and M&J Seafoods. 

The enactment of the Transparency in Supply Chains provision as part of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 means certain organizations are now required to produce statements on the steps they have taken to ensure there is no modern slavery in their own business or supply chains.

“Responsible fishing is essential not only to prevent damage to our marine environment, but also to protect the lives of those who work on our seas. It is great to see retailers working with U.K. fishermen to ensure best practice on board fishing vessels through initiatives like the Responsible Fishing Scheme, which will protect our oceans for future generations,” said George Eustice, U.K. marine environment minister.

RFS 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 has been redeveloped in accordance with the requirements of internationally recognized standard ISO17065 and is in application for ISO accreditation. 

Initially focused on vessels supplying the U.K. market, the scheme will be rolled out internationally over the next two years.

Tom Pickerell, technical director at Seafish, said, “Today’s announcement from Waitrose is a huge boost for RFS and it further marks the intent of the U.K. seafood industry to be recognized worldwide for its commitment to social and welfare issues.

“There is a collective call for seafood stocks to be ethically produced and as a result we are working with fishermen at the heart of the U.K. supply chain to meet an industry gold-standard which is globally applicable.”

Contributing Editor reporting from London, UK

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