Stakeholders across the seafood industry are being asked to respond to a 60-day public consultation launched today (Thursday 15 August) by providing feedback on the draft standard criteria for the next iteration of the Responsible Fishing Scheme (RFS), to be called the Responsible Fishing Vessel Standard (RFVS).
The RFVS standard criteria have been released by Seafish, the public body that supports the £10bn UK seafood industry, and Global Seafood Assurances (GSA), a not-for-profit organisation seeking to offer full supply chain assurance for wild and farmed seafood in partnership with existing providers. The two organisations are working together to develop the RFVS, which will build on the strong foundations established by the RFS to create a globally applicable standard able to provide assurance of decent working conditions and operational best practice on board fishing vessels, from the catch to the quay.
The revised draft standard criteria were informed by the objectives outlined in the Terms of Reference, established in response to extensive feedback received during an initial consultation in 2018 and published earlier this year.
The overarching goals of the development process are to create a standard which:
- Continues to meet the UK seafood sector supply chain assurance requirements, both for products sourced within the UK and beyond;
- Is capable of meeting international supply chain assurance requirements;
- Is internationally credible, third-party assessed and has a certification model aligned to the requirements of ISO 17065; and
- Has the ability to deliver a streamlined certification process.
Based on the consultation feedback, and referencing internationally agreed protocols and guidelines, the draft standard criteria have been developed by Technical Working Groups. The Technical Working Groups are composed of industry representatives, NGOs, Standard holders and experts from all sectors of the fishing industry and seafood supply chain, from around the world. The process also incorporated feedback received from nominated peer reviewers and current RFS certificate holders within the UK catching sector.
Helen Duggan, Head of RFS Transition at Seafish said: “We’re keen to ensure that the Responsible Fishing Vessel Standard is fit for purpose and meets market needs. To achieve this, we’re employing a robust, collaborative and interactive process to develop the draft standard criteria, mirroring best practice in international standard development.
“We are pleased to be able to share the draft standard criteria publically, and wish to thank the Technical Working Group members for their time and expertise in producing such a robust set of criteria.
“We are now asking stakeholders from across the industry to respond to the 60-day public consultation and take this opportunity to provide their feedback on the draft Standard.
“The public consultation also presents a fantastic opportunity for current RFS members to have their say, and we’ll be reaching out to them directly to ask for their invaluable feedback.”
Melanie Siggs, European Director for GSA said: “We are thrilled to have arrived at this important milestone and share the extensive work of the Responsible Fishing Vessel Standard development process thus far”.
“This is a critically important standard which, using global best practice guidelines and extensive consultation, addresses social issues, human rights and operational practice on board fishing vessels catching our seafood.”
“It will enable those in responsible supply chains to demonstrate the vessels catching their seafood take care of their crews and vessel operations. This can add to their assurance of environmental best practice in fisheries. Over time, we will learn more and more about how to embed such best practice as the norm”.
The public consultation will be open for 60 days with the deadline for responses on Monday 14 October 2019. All comments submitted during the consultation period must be made via the official feedback process – by returning a completed public comment form, available on the Seafish website here, to RFS@seafish.co.uk.
Feedback received will be acknowledged and used to inform the development of the final draft of the Responsible Fishing Vessel Standard, to be released during spring 2020. A synopsis of comments received will also be released publicly to show acknowledgement and attribution.