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Commercial Fishing



SWFPA lands first Group Certification under RFS. Seafish, the public body that supports the £10bn UK seafood industry, has welcomed the first Group Certification under the Responsible Fishing Scheme (RFS), a world-leading certification programme for commercial fishing vessels which recognises best practice in fishing operations and crew welfare.

This latest award to a group of vessels from the Scottish White Fish Producers Association (SWFPA) represents a significant milestone for the RFS, as it marks the first time a group of vessels has been collectively assessed against the Scheme’s robust standards. Prior to the launch of the Group Certification Model, vessels had to seek RFS certification on an individual basis. While still delivering the same assurance levels, a key benefit of the Group Certification Model is that it provides a more efficient process of certifying new vessels by reducing the amount of external audits required for individual vessels.

Launched in 2016, the RFS requires vessels and skippers to demonstrate they are operating to industry recognised best practice in five core areas: health, safety and crew welfare; training and professional development; the vessel and its mission; care of the catch and care for the environment. Vessels may be considered for group application under the Scheme if they share a central management system and in-house auditor. These rigorous internal systems replace the need for an external audit of every vessel in the group, thereby improving certification efficiency.

 SWFPA is the largest fishing association in Europe. Originally formed in 1943, the organisation represents around 220 vessels and 1,400 fishermen who contribute a collective £158 million to Scotland’s economy. The RFS Group Certification covers 62 of the SWFPA vessels, which range in length from 6m to 34m.

James Buchan from Scottish White Fish Producers Association said “We are absolutely delighted that SWFPA vessels have become the first group to become certified under the Responsible Fishing Scheme. We aim to facilitate a sustainable fishing sector which works for the environment, for consumers and for the fishermen, and we are always working to improve the way the seas are managed. With RFS helping to lead the way in responsible sourcing, it’s fantastic that a group of our vessels are the first to gain Group Certification under the RFS.”

SWFPA’s certification brings the total number of RFS vessels certified in the UK to 121, but it’s not just the fishing vessels that are catching on – to date 29 leading UK seafood processors, retailers and food service suppliers have committed to incorporating the RFS into their sourcing policies. This includes big high-street names such as M&S, who have played an active part in supporting the work undertaken by SWFPA, alongside a range of other supporters including Waitrose, Young’s and Flatfish.

Helen Duggan, Head of RFS Transition at Seafish, said: “We’re thrilled to mark a significant new milestone for the RFS with the first Group Certification awarded to Scottish White Fish Producers Association vessels. The demand for fishing vessels to be able to demonstrate best practice through independent third-party certification is becoming increasingly prevalent, and being certified under the RFS enables them to do this.

“The Group Certification Model offers an alternative route for vessels to achieve this, thereby increasing the scalability of the RFS. We look forward to continuing our work with SWFPA to maximise the opportunity this group presents to demonstrate the group model is credible, robust and practical.”

Seafish is also currently seeking other groups of UK commercial fishing vessels to participate in additional Group Certification pilots. For further information about this or the Scheme in general contact Mick Bacon, RFS Fleet Manager at Seafish, on Michael.Bacon@seafish.co.uk or 01736 732759.

More information about the RFS can also be found on the Seafish website at https://www.seafish.org/responsible-fishing-scheme.