RS Standards Supports Fishing Vessel Groups for Certification
Over the past decade there have been media reports of poor working conditions for fishers at sea, and numerous reports have emerged of labour abuse and human rights violations, spurring a reckoning within the industry.
Market buyers and seafood companies are looking to demonstrate their commitment to environmentally sustainable sourcing and fishing and this now extends to how they treat their workers as compared to social accountability standards. Currently the fish catching sector are also facing other challenges to their business viability and thus it affects their tolerance towards, and submission to external scrutiny. Compounding these frustrations are the current high prices of fuel, with some larger, high-power fishing vessels reaching the limits of viability due to increased bills.
With the above in mind, any individuals engaging with fishing vessels identified as targets for a vessel program audit will need an appreciation of the wider issues currently affecting the catching sector.
Potential owners and skippers targets are much more likely to be engaging when they are engaged on a one-to-one basis by individuals who have a significant working knowledge of their particular activities and more generally a good understanding of wider industry issues.
How RS Standards Assists
Several assurance and verification options are now available to the seafood sector at both regional and global levels.
RS Standards as an independent and expert consultancy in seafood standards has been at the forefront of these assurance programs and has created support services to engage with the catching sector effectively to enable a better understanding of the requirements and benefits for certification.
Our support aims to help to increase the uptake of the catching sector to engage with these programs and subsequently to help meet market buyer’s responsible sourcing expectations. We can work with any of the existing responsible fishing program standards including:
- Responsible Fishing Vessel Scheme
- Fish Crew Standard
- Responsible Seafood Sourcing
Our Service to Fishing Groups
We can help facilitate vessel participation in vessel programs by working with owners, skippers and crews to ensure preparedness for and understanding of the vessel program and audit requirements.
We can engage directly with key vessel owners, and skippers:
- To discuss and explain the rationale behind the vessel program highlighting the key importance of the catching sector’s role in demonstrating best practice delivery of fish and shellfish into the food supply chain.
- Identify, and communicate positively on areas of current vessel program compliance to demonstrate that existing working/operating procedures, in many cases already meet standard requirements.
- Communicate the acceptability of other industry regulatory requirements evidence bases and practices as acceptable evidence for vessel program purposes.
- Identify areas where vessel program compliance, or evidence of compliance isn’t currently or routinely practiced or recorded that will need delivering to meet a vessel program requirement.
- Work directly with owners and operators to develop working practices and/or documentation systems where shortfalls have been identified, to support future demonstration of vessel program compliance.
- Post engagement, enable owners and skippers to submit to vessel program audit with a higher probability of achieving compliance.
We Understand the Challenges
In order to be successful, owners and skippers would best be engaged in person, with active support being given in relation to achieving vessel program compliance levels. In every case identification and communication of current compliance levels and observed best practice should be the foundation of the engagement and precede discussions around non-conformance and corrective actions. When considering corrective actions, and evidence to demonstrate compliance, direct support in developing solutions has proven to be the best approach, as it doesn’t “do the job” for applicants, rather provides the tools for them to do the job themselves.
In addition to the above, engagement with potential applicants should consider the applicants work patterns, particularly those dictated by fishing methods and the necessity to operate within restricted windows of fishing opportunities (e.g., gill net fishers restricted by tidal ranges). Approaches of engagement will always be better received when those engaging have an understanding of the working patterns and fishing activities.
Fatigue and frustration exist in relation to third parties identifying “problems” with their vessels and practices so accentuating the positives at the outset of engagement is essential.
Where issues do exist, the provision of template solutions (systems or documentation) will, in many cases be necessary to achieve progress. Operators are time poor and have significant numbers of other competing issues, likely much more impacting on viability, and because of that will prioritise those if not directly supported.
RS Support Services to Programs
Our services can become tailormade to create an interface between vessel program and the catching sector. This is essential for successful vessel program expansion. A dedicated RS Coach can support and encouraging applications and engagement, fielding most queries and requests for information, and assisting the CB on the ground with arranging audits for greatest efficiency.
An RS Coach can assist Programs by:
- Attendance of regional fishing related events- to promote Vessel Program uptake
- Visiting of local fishing ports and direct communication with fishers- to promote trust and benefit of vessel program membership
- On vessel meeting and pre assessment to the vessel program conformity criteria- to support interested applicants
- Answering of telephone inquiries- to support fishers and allay concerns
- Support the CB auditors in arranging streamlined audits – to promote assessment efficiencies and speed up the audit process
Note- an RS coach would not have any influence in the final certification decision by the CBS for the vessels they have supported
For more information and specifics on how we can assist please contact mike.platt@rsstandards