Leading assurance across the UK seafood supply chain

‘Supply chain integrity’, ‘product assurance’ and ‘risk mitigation’ are common parlance in today’s food manufacturing sector, and the seafood industry is no different.

Although seafood is widely recognised as one of our healthiest and most sustainable protein foods we face stiff competition from other food sources. This challenge is aggravated by the risk of food safety and product integrity concerns damaging industry reputation; presenting a significant risk to brand owners, affecting public perception and access to end markets.

And while there are established initiatives that can address product sustainability requirements in terms of the seafood that comes out of the water, as the product makes moves through the supply chain consumers demand that the products integrity, whether relating to food safety, ethical or environmental matters, is maintained. 

While Seafish is not a standards body we have increasingly worked to provide the technical capability and resources to develop initiatives, tailored for the seafood sector, to enable it to demonstrate the assurance that the market demands. We either do this directly or we provide support to other industry organisations who are working in this area, such as our work to support the Scottish Seafood Association to develop its standards programme for small processing businesses. 

Seafish has been active this space for a number of years and in the last few months the results of this hard work is being realised. It is no exaggeration to say that the UK seafood sector is leading the way in being able to provide ‘end to end’ supply chain assurance. 

First up is our work on the Responsible Fishing Scheme (RFS). This world-leading certification programme for commercial fishing vessels, which recognises best practice in fishing operations and crew welfare, has grown from strength to strength since the current iteration was launched in 2016. Recent initiatives include the development of a group certification scheme which helps streamline the application process for vessels that are part of the same management organisation. Work is also well underway, in collaboration with our partner Global Seafood Assurances (GSA), to update the standard to ensure it continues to meet the demands of the supply chain, in the UK and beyond. In 2018, RFS certified vessels contributed over 30% of all product landed into the UK, by weight.  

At the next stage along the supply chain, and in response to demands from ports, processors and retailers, Seafish has developed the Responsible Fishing Ports Scheme (RFPS) for large fishing ports i.e. those with a sales or auction facility. This is a voluntary, independently audited, certified programme designed to demonstrate responsible food safety and good operational practices within UK fishing ports and harbours.  Last month, Peterhead became the first port to secure certification under the new scheme. In the meantime work continues to develop a standard for small fishing ports. 

So what’s next for Seafish; well there are still a few gaps to plug so that we can offer a bespoke package of ‘end to end’ assurance for the seafood supply chain.  Next on our radar is working with fish wholesalers and fish merchants to explore how we can assist the food service sector to demonstrate to consumers the integrity of the fabulous seafood products available in our fish and chip shops, in our pubs and in our restaurants. So watch this space.