How will the Responsible Fishing Scheme benefit me as a skipper?

The scheme enables skippers to demonstrate their seafood has been responsibly harvested, handled and preserved to industry-agreed best practice standards. The core principles of the scheme include health and safety, crew welfare and care for both the catch and the environment. Therefore the RFS is a positive tool for any vessel in promoting itself and its products to the market.

How will the Responsible Fishing Scheme benefit me as a seafood buyer?

The scheme enables buyers to be independently assured that their seafood has been responsibly harvested, handled, and preserved to industry-agreed best practice standards. The scheme is a tool for sourcing policy makers to demonstrate their supply chain’s compliance with new ethical and welfare laws introduced in the UK and EU.

How much will it cost?
The table below shows  the rates charged by our audit partners Acoura for each vessel category:

Vessel categories Year 1 & Year 3 – Vessel audit costs (+ VAT)


Year 2 – Surveillance audit* assessment costs (+VAT)
Over 10m £350 £170
Under 10m £150 £120
Single handed £150 £120
* Under normal circumstances this audit will not involve an auditor visiting the vessel. Members will be asked to submit documentary evidence to Acoura Marine. Any queries should be directed to Acoura Marine RFS Manager Seamus McKim on 0131 335 6613 or RFS@acoura.com


What are the RFS Compliance Support Guides?

The CSGs are a set of guides that underpin the standards and will assist the skipper in understanding key areas that will need to be complied with to achieve RFS certification. The guides have been designed to reflect good industry practice and ensure compliance with relevant national and international legislation.

What does the certification process involve?

To start the process, applicants must complete an RFS Application Pack that can be found on the How to join page of the RFS website. The Application Pack contains three parts, all of which must be completed before being returned to the Certification Body, Acoura Marine. An audit will then be arranged and, following any identified non-conformances being corrected, certification is confirmed and applicants are issued with a certificate confirming their membership.

RFS certificates are valid for two years but members must to undergo a surveillance audit after 12 months. In most cases this won’t need a vessel visit and will only require the member to submit documentary evidence to Acoura Marine. However, in certain circumstances Acoura Marine reserve the right to require an on vessel audit.

Before their certificate expires, members will be invited to renew their membership and have a further on-vessel audit. The process then repeats itself as described above.

What happens if the Skipper leaves the Vessel?

The unit of certification is both the vessel and the skipper as a partnership. If a vessel should change the skipper, or vice versa, then the certification will be suspended until the independent certification body – Acoura Marine – have audited the new partnership. This could be either an off-site or on-vessel audit depending on the circumstances.

Will there be a full social audit?

No, the RFS standard does not require a full social audit as it would be practically very difficult to assess vessel compliance in a consistent manner that would meet the requirements of ISO 17065 accreditation. However, the scheme is based upon the ILO c 188 Work in Fishing Convention and the key clauses within the crewed RFS standard commit the skipper to providing a working environment to meet the requirements of this convention and improve the living and working conditions for all the crew on their vessel. The RFS audit will review that the skipper has all the ethical and welfare policies in place and that suitable living conditions are available to the crew. To support the skipper, Compliance Support Guides have been produced, with the support of the UK catching sector, to give guidance on how they can comply with the requirements of the RFS standard.

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.

Future Governance

Why is Seafish looking for a new entity to run the RFS?

Facilitating the industry-led development of the Responsible Fishing Scheme was a key commitment of Seafish’s current Corporate Plan (2015 – 18), and our focus during 2017/18 is ensuring the scheme is robust while being as accessible as possible for the UK fleet.

The Seafish Board concluded that the best way forward for the scheme, beyond the current Corporate Plan, is to establish a stand-alone, not-for-profit organisation to operate the RFS in the UK and internationally.

The Seafish Board is keen that the original philosophy of the scheme will be maintained and that the new body is fit for purpose and can operate effectively both at a UK and global level. As a result, Seafish will remain as standard holder to ensure the original ethos is maintained.

When will this new entity be up and running?

As a public body, Seafish is bound by public procurement rules and regulations, and a clear scoring and award process was undertaken to award the contract. The tender process has now closed and Seafish is discussing next steps with the preferred supplier. A further update will be provided once this process reaches its conclusion. This will likely be in Spring 2018.

A transition plan will be developed between Seafish and the new organisation once it is appointed. Together our objective will be to ensure any handover is as smooth as possible and RFS and stakeholders will be kept fully informed. While a transition plan is being developed, Seafish will continue to deliver our objectives set out in the 2015-2018 Corporate Plan.

How will the new entity be funded?

The new RFS entity will not be funded by Seafish. The new entity will be self-funded, and as part of the procurement process we are stipulating that the new entity should be a not for profit organisation to ensure costs are not increased for profit purposes.

What does this mean for current RFS members?

The development of a long-term strategy for the RFS should assure current members that Seafish is securing a sustainable future for the scheme on behalf of the UK industry. Current members of RFS will see no change in how their scheme is operated, and it is business as usual for the UK fleet joining the scheme. Seafish will continue to roll out the RFS in its current form in the UK, promoting its new support materials and a simplified application process.

International Pilots

When will international roll-out of the RFS begin?

The RFS is currently only open to UK registered vessels, but the scheme is now being piloted around the world. An International Working Group, overseen by Seafish, is fully funding and managing a number of pilots in fisheries that are diverse in terms of their geographical location, species and gear type. International roll out will begin during 2018, overseen by the new entity.

How many international pilots are there, and who is paying for them?

There are 12 pilots in total, which are all fully funded by members of the International Working Group. The pilots are running in the USA, South Africa, New Zealand, Norway, Brazil, Argentina, Canada, Russia and the Barents Sea. The IWG will recommence work on the international pilots once the new entity is in place.

Although these pilots will not result in certification of the international vessels involved, they will provide valuable feedback on the current RFS Standard, particularly on how the audit methodology could be strengthened to better capture ‘crew voice’.