The History of RFS

Following feedback from our stakeholders, the Responsible Fishing Scheme has undergone a comprehensive review and was relaunched in January 2016.

Modification process

In 2012 Seafish instructed an independent consultant to conduct a scoping exercise of the original RFS standard. Following this scoping exercise Seafish commissioned an in depth independent assessment on what should be the function and objectives of a future RFS.

The consultant contracted to undertake this review consulted with over 70 organisations across the breadth of the UK fish industry and the UK supply chain, and from these consultation meetings the terms of reference (TOR) for a new revised RFS was devised.  The development of a revised RFS based on this agreed TOR was approved by the Seafish board in 2013.

The modification process began in January 2014, with the formation of a multi-stakeholder Oversight Board, which agreed the overall objective and the key areas of concern for the proposed new standard. This was soon followed by the establishment of the Technical Committee and three Technical Working Groups  to develop the new standard, with each working group focusing on specific areas of concern.

Version 2 of the draft standard was tested in trial audits on vessels in early May 2014. Revisions were subsequently made and these were signed off by the final All-Work Group meeting on 28 May, and presented to the Oversight Board on 23 June 2014.

It was agreed that a separate standard was required for single-handed vessels and that both the skipper and the vessel would be the unit of certification – as a partnership.

At the June meeting the Oversight Board approved draft v5 for crewed vessels and draft v2 for single-handed vessels, which were then subject to a 60-day public consultation that ran from 28 July until 25 September 2014. Further information on the Public Consultation, including feedback received and actions taken, can be found here.


Following final amends being agreed with the Oversight Board their recommendation for submission to the standard holder – the Seafish Board – for final approval was confirmed. The certification process of applicants to the new scheme will also seek ISO 17065 accreditation. A clear outline of the development stages followed in preparing the new RFS standard can be summarised as follows:

  • Outline of Standard modules drafted and agreed by the Oversight Board
  • Technical Committee Working Group draft of RFS Standard conformance criteria for each agreed RFS module
  • Technical Committee approved draft of each RFS Standard
  • Oversight Board approved draft of each RFS Standard Public comment draft on each RFS Standard following the 60 day Public Consultation on the Seafish Website and through direct canvasing of affected stakeholders by Seafish Staff
  • Final Oversight Board draft for each RFS Standard
  • Oversight Board review and recommendation for approval for each RFS Standard
  • Seafish Board final approval for each RFS Standard: Crewed Vessel Standard and Single Handed Vessel Standard
  • Standards along with supporting documentation submitted to UKAS for a review to assess if the RFS standards could be certified in accordance with  ISO 17065 accreditation requirements.
  • UKAS review recommended a format change to have a core RFS standard to be complied with by all applicants which indicated specific compliance clauses for either the crewed applicant or the single handed applicant.
  • Newly formatted RFS standard (no content changes) submitted to and approved by Technical Committee
  • RFS Certification body to re-submit  reformatted RFS standard to UKAS for review and to progress to the next phase of their accreditation application which will involve a full review of the certification process to ensure it is in alignment with the ISO 17065 requirements

The new scheme’s independent certification body – Acoura – won a competitive tender process to provide certification services for the RFS standards.

The final stage of the modification process included pilot audits to test the proposed certification model, as well as recruitment and training of additional auditors. The first vessels and skippers were invited to enter the certification process in Autumn 2015, and the Responsible Fishing Scheme was formally relaunched at an event in the Houses of Parliament in January 2016.

Consultation Process +

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