How to Join

This page of the website explains the stages of progression to RFS membership and also provides information on the application pack you will need to complete.

The certification process  is a two step process and the diagram below shows how your application will progress to full membership of the RFS. You can click on the diagram to enlarge it.

To start the process of joining the Responsible Fishing Scheme, click HERE to download the Application Pack.

You must also read the RFS Compliance Support Guides which explain the best practice that must be complied with to become a member of the RFS. There are 5 guides which cover different fishing operations – Demersal, Nephrops, Pelagic, Scallops and Shellfish – and one guide which applies to all sectors as it covers health and safety, welfare, food safety and the environment. Applicants should read all guides that are applicable to them before submitting their RFS application.

The CSGs are available HERE

Once you have completed your application, send it to our RFS audit partners Acoura Marine. You can either e-mail this pack to  or post it to Acoura Marine, 6 Redheughs Rigg, Edinburgh, EH12 9DQ.

RFS Application Pack:

Part One of the application pack helps you identify what documents you will need to show the auditors when they visit your vessel. You may already have many of the documents needed and it is perfectly acceptable to use existing documents. A table at the front of the pack will help you identify which documents you may already have and where to find them.

Where you don’t have all the documents needed we have created blank documents for you to complete. These are available to download from the RFS website – a link in the application pack will take you to any documents you need. There is a tick box list in the pack to help you make sure you have everything you need.

The below diagram explains how part one of the pack works.


When you have ticked every box to show you have all the documents you need, these documents must be kept on board to show the auditors when they visit your vessel.

Part Two of the pack collects information about your vessel (types of fishing operations, crewing levels, home port etc) that our audit partner, Acoura Marine, need to know before they can arrange your audit.

The third and final part of the pack contains clauses from the RFS Standard that must be complied with in order to become a member of the scheme. You must sign a declaration to confirm that you fully comply with these scheme rules. There are links to the Compliance Support Guides so you fully understand what best practice is expected of RFS members.

It is important to note that where a vessel has more than one skipper, all skippers must sign the declaration before sending the application pack to our audit partners Acoura Marine.

A copy of the vessel’s insurance policy must be included with your application.

The Vessel Audit:

Once the application pack has been returned to Acoura Marine, they will contact you to arrange an audit on board your vessel. At the end of the audit the findings will be reported back to the skipper. If any issues (non-conformances) are raised, you are given 28 days to put these right.

Confirmation of Membership:

Once all parts of the audit are complete and there are no outstanding non-conformances, the auditor’s report is reviewed by Acoura Marine’s Technical Review Committee. When your membership is confirmed, you will be issued with a Certificate which is valid for two years.

Maintenance of membership:

Whilst your membership certificate will be valid for a period of two years it is important to note that there will be a requirement to undergo a surveillance audit at the mid-point of the dates shown on your certificate. In most cases this won’t need a vessel visit and will only require members to submit documentary evidence to Acoura Marine.

In certain circumstances Acoura Marine reserve the right to require an on-vessel audit. Examples would be where questions have been raised about continued compliance after an on-vessel audit, or where significant numbers of non-conformances were previously found at any on-board audit. An on-board audit may also take place if your vessel is randomly selected to be included in Acoura Marine’s surveillance audit sampling program. (At no cost to the vessel, 5% of all vessels due for a surveillance audit will be randomly selected for an on-board surveillance audit assessment).

Six weeks in advance of the certificate mid-point dates, Acoura Marine will contact you and request that documentation is sent to them for assessment. The details of what documents are required will be laid out by Acoura Marine when they contact you. The documents requested should be sent either electronically or in hard copy to Acoura Marine within 28 days of being requested. The contact details for Acoura Marine can be found in the Help and Guidance section at the bottom of this page.

Once the evidence has been reviewed and found to be satisfactory, Acoura Marine will contact you to confirm your membership remains valid until the expiry date of your certificate. However, if Acoura Marine is not satisfied with the evidence received, they will raise non-conformances and contact you requesting more evidence to close out the non-conformances. Members will need to respond within 28 days of notification. Only after the non-conformances have been satisfactorily closed out will Acoura confirm continued membership. Failure to provide evidence will ultimately result in members being withdrawn from the scheme.

Once the surveillance audit process is completed, membership will continue until the expiry date of your certificate. Acoura Marine will contact you six weeks in advance of your certificate expiry date to enquire about your vessel re-joining the scheme and undergoing a further on-vessel audit.

Changes of circumstances:

If after you qualify there is a significant change of circumstances you must tell Acoura Marine directly (Not Seafish) as the changes may affect your entitlement to remain qualified. Changes such as the sale of a vessel or the appointment of a new skipper who hasn’t been through an RFS audit will mean that membership is no longer valid.  In these circumstances please contact Acoura Marine without delay. Their contact details can be found below.

Other circumstances that must be reported to the Certification Body are any occurrences where member vessels have been warned, sanctioned or prosecuted under Health and Safety, Fishery or Employment related legislation.

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