The Seafish Responsible Fishing Scheme (RFS) is a voluntary vessel based programme certifying high standards of crew welfare and responsible catching practices on fishing vessels.

The RFS is open to all types of commercial fishing vessels. It is a ‘business- to-business’ tool to help fishermen showcase best practice through independent, third-party auditing.

The RFS was launched in January 2016 to facilitate the market demand for independent due diligence audits of fishing vessels.  The RFS Standard was developed, and is continually reviewed, under the direction of an independent Oversight Board, made up of representatives of the UK catching sector, processors, retailers, safety experts and ethical NGOs.  The RFS is currently operating under version 1 of the Standard and requires documented evidence regarding crew welfare, safety practices and employment contracts.

The RFS does not currently have the capability to audit, or the legal authority to police, serious labour and human rights abuses at sea such as those identified in the 2016 ILO report Fishers first – Good practices to end labour exploitation at sea and EJF’ s 2015 report Pirates and Slaves; it is not a social audit and version 1 does not include crew interviews.

It is the intention of the RFS Oversight Board to work with other international organisations and with their expertise, to build our due diligence commitment and consider a more robust auditing model in subsequent versions of the RFS Standard.

Such assurance is increasingly being sought by the UK fisheries supply chain, and so the RFS satisfies a unique and necessary function. It is the only programme certifying crew welfare and responsible catching practices on vessels, complementing other fishery-based sustainability certifications  and contributing to this sector’s long term viability.

In 2014 the scheme underwent a complete review and was formally relaunched in January 2016.  Vessels and their skipper are now audited against the  standard by the scheme’s independent certification body Acoura.

The modified RFS has been developed in accordance with the requirements of internationally recognised standard ISO17065. There is a robust Governance structure in place led by the RFS Oversight Board who are responsible for the strategic direction and objectives of the scheme.  To find out more click here.

The independently audited scheme demonstrates that a vessel and its skipper are operating to best practice in 5 core areas:

  • Safety, health and welfare
  • Training and professional development
  • The vessel and its mission
  • Care of the catch
  • Care for the environment.

 More about the scheme

The  Responsible Fishing Scheme is a voluntary vessel based programme certifying high standards of crew welfare and responsible catching practices on board fishing vessels. The RFS provides tangible evidence that the seafood landed by a vessel has been responsibly harvested, handled, and preserved to industry agreed best practice standards.

The Responsible Fishing Scheme is the only global standard auditing responsible and ethical fishing practices on board fishing vessels. A vessel and its skipper is the ‘unit’ audited against the standard.  Certification to the scheme demonstrates that a vessel and its skipper is operating to best practice in five core areas:

Safety, health and welfare

  • A commitment to generating a culture of integrity and respect (e.g. no forced labour) will be demonstrated.
  • Requirements established also draw from other relevant safety management and ethical and welfare initiatives to improve safety of the crew and promote decent working conditions.

Training and professional development

  • Covers accessible training for the key priority areas, especially safety.
  • Focus is on improving skills, knowledge and understanding.
  • Commitment to raise standards, open up new opportunities and cooperate with management authorities.

The vessel and its mission

  • Statement detailing vessel’s mission (e.g. fishing area; catch focus; gear type etc.)
  • The vessel and its gear are in compliance with all current legislation
  • All legal with the right documentation in place.
  • Full cooperation with Voluntary Agreements in existence in the fishery.

Care of the catch

  • Focus on supplying safe, high quality, wholesome product with known provenance.
  • Hygienic handling and storage at appropriate temperatures.
  • Full traceability from catch to quayside.
  • Responsible capture & landing of live products.
  • Commitment to maintaining the value of the catch.

Care for the environment

  • Responsible practice & respecting the environment (management of litter, lost fishing gear recovery, wildlife interaction records)
  • Supporting fishery science (eg observers, science partnerships, etc.)
  • Tie-in with other voluntary schemes.