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. 

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 that cover different fishing operations – Demersal, Nephrops, Pelagic, Scallops and Shellfish – and 1 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

RFS Application Pack:

Part One of the application pack helps you identify what documents you will need to show the auditors during your on-board vessel audit. You may already have many of the documents needed and we encourage you to use existing documents where possible. The table at the front of the application pack will help you identify which documents you may already have that can be used.

If 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 using the links in the application pack.. There is also a tick box list in the application pack to help you make sure you have everything you need. All documents listed must be kept safe and available on board to show the auditor when they visit your vessel.

The diagram below explains how Part One of the application pack works.

Part Two of the application pack collects information about your vessel (types of fishing operations, crewing levels, home port etc) that the RFS Certification Body needs to know before they can arrange your audit.

Part Three of the application pack contains further information about areas of 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 requirements. 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 the Certification Body.

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

Once you have completed the application pack, send it to the RFS Certification Body by e-mailing it to or post it to Lloyds Register, 6 Redheughs Rigg, Edinburgh, EH12 9DQ.

The Vessel Audit:

Once the application pack has been returned to the Certification Body, 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 and submit evidence of actions taken to prove you have corrected these non-conformances.

Confirmation of Membership

Once all the reported non-conformances are corrected, the auditor’s report is reviewed by the Certification Body’s Technical Review Committee (TRC). The TRC make the membership decision. When membership is confirmed, a Certificate will be issued which is valid for two years. However, vessels must undergo an annual surveillance audit at the midpoint of their certificate. For more information please see the “Maintenance of membership” section below.

Maintenance of membership:

For certificates issued prior to 1st May 2019 RFS membership certificates are valid for two years subject to an annual surveillance audit. The due date for an annual surveillance audit is at the mid-point of the dates shown on member certificates. The diagram below shows the process that will be followed.

In most cases the annual surveillance audit will not entail a vessel visit and will only require members to submit documentary evidence to the Certification Body. However, the Certification Body reserves the right to require an on-vessel audit in certain circumstances, for example 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 a vessel is randomly selected to be included in the Scheme’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 by the Certification Body).

Three months before the annual surveillance audit is due the Certification Body will contact members with instructions about what to do. The details of what documents are required will be laid out by the Certification Body when they contact members. The documents requested should be sent to the Certification Body either electronically or by hard copy no later than 28 days before the annual surveillance audit due date. The contact details for the Certification Body 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, the Certification Body will contact members to confirm that their RFS membership remains valid until the expiry date on their certificate. However, if the evidence received is not satisfactory, the Certification Body will contact members requesting more evidence to close out the non-conformances. Members must respond within 28 days of notification. Only after all non-conformances have been satisfactorily closed out will continued membership be confirmed. Failure to provide evidence within a timely manner 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 the issued certificates. The Certification Body will contact members three months in advance of their certificate expiry date to make arrangements with members wishing to apply for a new certificate. 

Changes of circumstances:

If, after certification, there is any change in circumstance for the skipper or vessel, members must tell the Certification Body immediately as this may affect entitlement to RFS membership. Full details of the terms and conditions of RFS membership can be found at appendix 1 in the Application Pack.

Changes such as the sale of a vessel or the appointment of a new skipper who has not been through an RFS audit will mean that membership is no longer valid.  In these circumstances members must contact the Certification Body without delay (contact details can be found in the ‘help and guidance’ section below.

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

Help and guidance:

To arrange an audit or report a change in circumstance please contact the Certification Body’s  RFS Manager Seamus McKim either by e-mail on or by phone on 0131 335 6613

Comments and feedback:

If you have any comments or feedback on the content of this page or any of the forms and documents provided, please send them to  

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