Sam Lambourn, owner of the Britannia V

Fisherman Sam Lambourn bought his second vessel, Britannia V, two years ago which is skippered by Mick O’Connell with four to five crew. The gill netter fishes in the Celtic Sea for Hake landing in to Newlyn and the South West region and is now one of the first vessel/skippers in the UK to be certified under the revised Responsible Fishing Scheme (RFS).

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Sam’s other vessel, the Lyonesse, has been certified under the old Responsible Fishing Scheme since 2012 and is due for renewal next year. He sells some of the hake caught by the Britannia V directly to processor Falfish which is committed to only sourcing seafood from RFS certified vessels, prompting Sam to apply for RFS certification for the vessel.

He said: “Falfish are a regular customer and RFS certification is one of their conditions for sourcing seafood, so I decided to put the Britannia V and her skipper through RFS certification as soon as possible.

However, Sam has a broader perspective when it comes to reasons for getting his vessels RFS certified.

“One of the biggest benefits for me is that it makes the business of running my boat much easier because I have a set of excellent standards to work towards. The systematic approach of keeping records updated and carrying out various checks keeps me right. If I wasn’t a member I would still do most of the checks required but things like emergency drills probably wouldn’t be done quite as regularly as RFS requires. RFS makes everything a little more professional and raises standards across the board.”

Whilst Sam said the paperwork required during the audit was laborious, he realises that it’s what is required to ensure best practice standards are maintained and acknowledges that now the process is in place, it will be easier going forward. He added:

“Having been in the previous RFS scheme, I was surprised at how much more thorough and rigorous the standard and audit is this time around. Everything is looked at and each bit of the standard has to be met – the phrase ‘dot the i’s and cross the t’s’ comes to mind. The biggest difference for me this time around though is the added focus on the welfare and ethical treatment of crew which is definitely becoming a bigger issue now due to the stories about slavery in the Thai fishing industry.”

Sam will go through the audit again next year with the Lyonesse and says he would recommend joining RFS to other vessel owners.

“It is important to manage expectations on the benefits of RFS in terms of who will buy your catch but I think the scheme is great for anybody running a boat in order keep standards high. It is a good way to ensure your crew are properly qualified and have all the right training.”