The Responsible Fishing Scheme (RFS), which was developed by Seafish in 2006, will be modified by a group of industry experts, including active fishermen, to redefine the requirements of the existing scheme to reflect future industry needs and achieve independent ISO accreditation for the first time.
RFS is a third party accreditation scheme for the catching sector which rewards responsible fishing practises recognising care of catch, vessel standards, crew competence and environmental awareness. RFS certified vessels can potentially access new markets looking for responsibly sourced products with Morrisons recently announcing that UK vessels supplying them must be accredited to the scheme by October 2014.
Building on feedback from an extensive consultation with the industry, an Oversight Board has been appointed by Seafish to oversee the revisions and ensure the updated RFS is workable and beneficial for the catching sector. Ex-fisherman and philanthropist Harvey Jones has been elected chair whilst the board includes members from the catching, processing, wholesale, food service and retail sectors as well as representatives from environmental and safety and welfare groups.
Chairman Harvey Jones said: “Seafish carried out a review of the scheme last year which identified a need to bring it in line with the ever changing needs of the industry. The Oversight Board will look at the high-level objectives of the scheme and assist in appointing a Technical Committee, which will include active fishermen, who will be responsible for developing a set of standards that are fit for purpose and play a strategic role in promoting a responsible industry with a sustainable future.”
The Oversight Board will present the revised RFS standards to the Seafish board in September 2014 and if approved, will submit it for ISO 17065 accreditation before making the certification available to the catching sector.
Whilst the standard is going through the revision process, vessels will continue to be entered in to the current scheme and all vessels, including those already engaged, will be re-audited to ensure fishermen continue to have unrestricted access to markets.
Oversight Board member and Scottish Seafood Association chief executive John Cox, whose members use the RFS to help them secure market access, said: “Traceability is important for our customers to demonstrate to consumers the journey of their products from sea to plate. We can give our customers a full profile on the vessel the seafood comes from with assurances the wild fish they eat and enjoy has been caught responsibly by fishermen who have taken great care of the catch along with pride in the industry they love.”
Peter Bruce, Skipper of the Peterhead-based Budding Rose PD 418, said: “Fishing practices have greatly improved over the years. Many of us put a lot of time and effort into fishing responsibly and carefully, maintaining our vessels and looking after the welfare and safety of our crew and being a member of the RFS helps to display the integrity of our business. It is important that this is recognised by industry to ensure standards remain high and we have a fishing fleet which is prepared for the opportunities and challenges of the future seafood industry.”