A certification scheme is being developed to promote good practice in UK fishing ports and give seafood buyers added confidence in the quality and sustainability of the seafood landed there.

In a move to assure buyers of a fishing port’s good practice, Seafish is currently running a Responsible Fishing Ports Scheme (RFPS) pilot programme, and is seeking input and feedback from the seafood industry and other interested parties, as part of a public consultation that was published on 1 December.

The scheme aims to promote responsible operating practices in UK fishing ports and is focusing on five core elements: food safety and structural integrity; port and the working environment; care for the environment; care of the catch, and traceability.

Pilot audits at four fishing ports across the country have just been completed by Acoura Marine, an independent third party, appointed as the certification body to carry out the trials. Feedback from the pilot audits has been used to further develop the standard to ensure it is fit for purpose. Responses to the public consultation, which is open for 60 days, will also generate useful feedback to inform further changes to the draft Standard.

Plymouth Harbour took part in one of the four pilot audits, and Harbour Master Pete Bromley said: “The recent RFPS development audit carried out at Plymouth Fisheries was welcomed by all parties involved, and we were pleased to take part and provide feedback.

“The implementation of a workable and practical certification scheme for harbours and first sale establishments will serve to standardise working practices throughout the industry, provide clear guidelines and increase buyer confidence by regulating hygiene and safety standards.”

The project is being driven by the British Ports Association Fishing Ports Group in an effort to develop consistency, and improve standards and transparency across UK fishing ports, while providing a guarantee of good practice to buyers and the wider supply chain.

The current standard has been developed for large ports, but future development of the standard will include a separate version to suit small ports and harbours.

RFPS project manager at Seafish, Marcus Jacklin, said: “The vast majority of UK fishing ports are already acting in a responsible manner and working to a high standard. This scheme will give assurances to buyers that these high standards are being adhered to.

“The five core elements we are focusing on reflect the main priorities of seafood buyers and by assessing these, we can assure all parts of the supply chain, that include certified fishing ports and auctions, are acting responsibly and following good practice.”

The Public consultation is open for 60 days and industry and other groups are encouraged to respond. Full details on the scheme and how to respond to the consultation can be found on the Seafish website here.

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