The RFS is the only scheme that certifies high standards of crew welfare and responsible catching practices on board fishing vessels. The scheme is currently only open to UK registered vessels.

The Seafish Board, as the RFS Standard Holder, has confirmed its goal to make the RFS a globally recognised third party verification scheme with a focus on socially responsible fishing.

The RFS is now being piloted around the world, and the procurement process to find a new entity to run the scheme will soon be underway.

In line with recommendations by the RFS Oversight Board and Seafish Board in March this year, an International Working Group, overseen by Seafish, is now fully funding and managing a number of pilots in fisheries that are diverse in terms of their geographical location, species and gear type.

Although participation in the pilots will not result in certification of the international vessels involved, it will provide valuable feedback on the current RFS Standard, particularly on how the audit methodology could be strengthened to better capture ‘crew voice’. These pilots will be completed by the end of 2017.

In tandem with piloting the scheme outside of the UK, Seafish will shortly undertake a public procurement process to engage a not-for-profit entity to run, manage and govern the RFS from 2018 onwards. Seafish will remain as the RFS standard holder to ensure the ethos behind the scheme is maintained.

While work to progress the international pilots will now pick up pace, it is key to remember that 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.