How will the Responsible Fishing Scheme benefit me as a skipper?

 The scheme enables skippers to demonstrate their seafood has been responsibly harvested, handled and preserved to industry-agreed best practice standards. The core principles of the scheme include health and safety, crew welfare and care for both the catch and the environment. Therefore the RFS is a positive tool for any vessel in promoting itself and its products to the market.

How will the Responsible Fishing Scheme benefit me as a seafood buyer?

The scheme enables buyers to be independently assured that their seafood has been responsibly harvested, handled, and preserved to industry-agreed best practice standards. The scheme is a tool for sourcing policy makers to demonstrate their supply chain’s compliance with new ethical and welfare laws introduced in the UK and EU.

How much will it cost?
Vessel audit costs are still to be finalised against agreed audit methodology. The below table details the rates charged by our audit partners Acoura for each vessel category:

Vessel categories Year 1 & Year 3 – Vessel Audit Costs (+VAT) Year 2 – Surveillance audit*
Proposed: Flat fee rate fee. Proposed: Flat rate fee
Over 10m   £350 £150
Under 10m   £150 £100
Single handed l £150 £100
* This is an estimate subject to review once the scope of the surveillance audit is confirmed. To remain members of the scheme all vessels must pay for and pass this audit


Will there be an RFS Chain of Custody Standard?

It is our intention to develop a Chain of Custody (CoC) Standard to ensure the providence and traceability of RFS certified products throughout the supply chain. We are working with the RFS Oversight Board and other key UK Supply Chain representatives and CoC experts to clarify what the UK Seafood Supply Chain needs from an RFS CoC and agree a development plan for 2016.

What are the RFS Compliance Support Guides (CSG)?

The CSGs are a set of guides that underpin the standards and will assist the skipper in understanding key areas that will need to be complied with to achieve RFS certification. The guides have been designed to reflect good industry practice and ensure compliance with relevant national and international legislation.

What does the Certification process involve?

Once the Application Form has been submitted the vessel applicant will complete an Application Pack, supplied by Seafish. This is followed by completion of a Vessel Audit Pack, which contains the necessary supporting documentation to ensure the Skipper is ready for the vessel audit with the independent certification body. Once all documentation is in order a vessel audit will be arranged. Following any identified non-conformances being resolved the certification body will hold a decision meeting and award RFS certification to a successful applicant. The audit cycles proposed would see vessel audits on an annual basis.

What happens if the Skipper leaves the Vessel?

The unit of certification is both the vessel and the skipper as a partnership. If a vessel should change the skipper, or vice versa, then the certification will be suspended until the independent certification body – Acoura Marine – have audited the new partnership. This could be either an off-site or on-vessel audit depending on the circumstances.

Will there be a full social audit?

No, the RFS standard does not require a full social audit as it would be practically very difficult to assess vessel compliance in a consistent manner that would meet the requirements of ISO 17065 accreditation. However, the scheme is based upon the ILO c 188 Work in Fishing Convention and the key clauses within the crewed RFS standard commit the skipper to providing a working environment to meet the requirements of this convention and improve the living and working conditions for all the crew on their vessel. The RFS audit will review that the skipper has all the ethical and welfare policies in place and that suitable living conditions are available to the crew. To support the skipper, Compliance Support Guides have been produced, with the support of the UK catching sector, to give guidance on how they can comply with the requirements of the RFS standard.

The RFS does not currently have the capability to audit, or the legal authority to police, serious labour and human rights abuses at sea such as those identified in the 2016 ILO report Fishers first – Good practices to end labour exploitation at sea and EJF’ s 2015 report Pirates and Slaves; it is not a social audit and version 1 does not include crew interviews.

It is the intention of the RFS Oversight Board to work with other international organisations and with their expertise, to build our due diligence commitment and consider a more robust auditing model in subsequent versions of the RFS standard.

How is the changeover between ‘old’ and ‘new’ schemes being managed?

No certificates for the ‘old’ RFS have been issued since October 2014.

In order to manage the changeover between the old and new scheme, members of the old scheme have been contacted inviting them to join the new scheme. Once they have applied, their vessel will be displayed on the website as a vessel that has applied to join the new scheme and they will progress to membership as described on the How to Join page of the website.

In some circumstances, old scheme certificates issued late in the life of the old scheme have expiry dates extending beyond 2016, and in some cases into 2017. Whilst certificates were issued for a period of three years there was a requirement for every vessel to have an interim audit around the mid-point of the period covered by their certificate. Because it is now impossible to undertake ‘old scheme’ interim audits, vessels in this situation have also been invited to join the new scheme. All vessels that apply will be displayed on the website as vessels that have applied to join the new scheme. Those vessels that do not apply to join the new scheme and have less than 18 months duration remaining on their certificate will be removed from the website.

Any old scheme vessel that has not yet applied to join the new scheme can apply to join at any time and will be once again displayed on the RFS website, this time as a new scheme applicant.