The Scottish White Fish Producers’ Association (SWFPA) has made an agreement with Seafish, who developed RFS, to fund the applications of its members. The first skippers in Scotland to be certified are 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 Responsible Fishing 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 has been a focus on crew welfare, following slavery issues that have been reported in the seafood supply chain, as well as the general health and safety on board fishing vessels.
On receiving his RFS certification, John said: “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.”
SWFPA inshore and environmental policy co-ordinator 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 Responsible Fisheries Scheme (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 first 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 recognised 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.
It marks the intent of the UK seafood industry to be recognised worldwide for its commitment to social and welfare related issues and is now the only programme certifying crew welfare, as well as responsible catching practices on vessels.
A range of seafood buyers have already backed the scheme and committed to supporting its development including supermarket chain Morrisons and M&J Seafoods, one of the biggest food service suppliers in the UK.
Mick Bacon, RFS Manager explains: “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.
“With this recognition of best practise 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.”
To join the RFS or to get more information about the benefits of the scheme please visit http://www.seafish.org/rfs/