Global Seafood Assurances
Global Seafood Assurances

Category: Pilots

First Vessel to Receive Responsible Fishing Vessel Standard (RFVS) Certificate

In January 2021 Australian Longline Fishing became the first fishing company in the world to have a vessel certified to the Global Seafood Assurance Responsible Fishing Vessel standard. The vessel in question is Antarctic Discovery, a 55-meter longliner with a crew of 20-25, plus two observers.

We asked Malcolm McNeill, Managing Director of Australian Longline Fishing, to tell us how they got involved and why it felt important to gain a vessel certification.

“I first learnt of the developing Responsible Fishing Vessel certification process when I attended the Seafood Summit in Seattle back in 2017 and while we expressed an interest in being ‘guinea pigs’ and getting involved at that time, I understand that it was too early in the development stages. Three years down the track and I read in the media that the Responsible Fishing Vessel Standard was starting to be rolled out internationally hence why Marty (Marty  Johnson, Vessel Coordinator) was tasked to reach out to Global Seafood Assurances.”

Why did you want to get involved?

“Being an ex-fisherman, it can sometimes be easy to say “that’s how I used to do things back then, so therefore you should be able to do the same now”. However, the world has changed a lot so every now and then it is worthwhile to re-calibrate the thought process and ask ourselves questions, be they about how we fish or who we recruit to do that;

  • Are we doing it safely?
  • Are we doing the right thing? 
  • Are we doing it fairly?

The folks on our vessels are experienced crew that work hard and are well respected – many of them have been working with us for many years, but that’s not a reason to get complacent. Irrespective of how well we know we pay and look after our crew there is still a perception of low pay, slave labor and poor living standards on fishing boats. There’s been a lot of press about that around the world. We have always tried to ensure that we are doing the right thing, but what we say we do often doesn’t hold much weight in the public eye, they need proof. There have been many reports of terrible recruiting and treatment in fisheries so it is hard for folks to trust.”

What do you see as the benefit of having your vessel certified?

“When the RFVS certification process was rolled out we saw it as a good way forward, not just to tick the boxes of what we are doing right, but also to bring ourselves in line (or even exceed) with internationally accepted best crewing practices irrespective of the nationality of the crew.

Such certification will enable us to provide our customers with independent assurance that we, as their supplier, engage, employ, pay, and treat all our crew equally, fairly and further that they are trained in safety. This is all in accordance with the immigration and employment regulations of Australia, when needed, as well as the global conventions that have been agreed for the best welfare of fishing vessel crews. The audit process itself highlighted a couple of aspects that we were a bit “relaxed” on, but these were easily rectified which meant a little bit more comfort and security to the current crew. It also provided us with the template of how we should engage and treat all crew now and into the future.

Antarctic Discovery

There are several benefits to the company in getting all our vessels certified. Most obvious is in the marketplace by customers and consumers. They value the fact that they are purchasing Toothfish from a Marine Stewardship Council certified fishery where we care deeply about the best management which will ensure healthy oceans and fish for tomorrow – and that it has been caught on welfare and safety-focused vessels where each crew member is treated fairly and with respect.

Most importantly, all of us in the company can hold our heads up and confidently say that we are doing the right thing. We’re doing it safely and we’re doing it fairly, and we’ve got a respected international organization  providing us with the certificate to prove it.”

We asked Marty Johnson (Vessel Coordinator) How was the audit experience?

“We spent time working with Global Seafood Assurances to make sure we understood exactly what we needed to do. I’d say getting properly prepared is critical – and it also helps tidy up some of those areas that might have become more relaxed. The certification body (Lloyds Register) worked closely with us to time when the vessel would be in harbour (she was audited in New Zealand) and set timings for crew interviews which were closely adhered to. I couldn’t be there so we did a lot of the process remotely, but it worked well even though I couldn’t be on the vessel at the time.

“We can be away up to a few months and were getting ready for our next trip.  We have a crew of 20-25, plus two observers, and everyone has a job to do in that preparation so timing was critical.  I’m really pleased for the company and the crew that we now have  – we’re the first to have! – this certification. We’ve booked in the next vessel to be audited in a couple of months from now and we’ll be even better prepared.”

If you have any questions or would like to know how to apply for the Responsible Fishing Vessel Standard please contact RFVS@seafoodassurances.org

First vessel to achieve Responsible Fishing Vessel Standard announced

Global Seafood Assurances have announced that the first vessel to achieve the Responsible Fishing Vessel Standard (RFVS) has been awarded the RFVS certificate by Lloyds Register. The vessel, Antarctic Discovery, belongs to Australian Longline Fishing, operating in a Patagonian and Antarctic Toothfish fishery certified by the Marine Stewardship Certified.

The 56m vessel carries a crew of 20-25, plus two observers, for trips into very challenging waters, often for a couple of months at a time.

We were very keen to get independent, credible, certification that we recruit and care for our crews in accordance with global conventions. Our customers need that assurance. Now we can demonstrate that we are caring for both the fish and the people who harvest them, and we all feel good about that” commented Malcolm McNeill, Managing Director Australian Longline Fishing.  

Preparation and timing were cited as key to a successful audit by Marty Johnson, Vessel Coordinator. The vessel was in dock in New Zealand being prepared for its next trip, while Marty was in Hobart, where the company is based. Audit days and crew interviews were carefully planned so as not to detract from those preparations.

Spending time discussing what we needed to prepare, with Global Seafood Assurance and with Lloyds Register, helped make sure we used audit time efficiently. We needed to sharpen up in a few areas, but that was a useful exercise in itself” said Marty “We plan to have a second vessel audited in a few months and will be even better prepared

Global Seafood Assurances currently have 12 audit pilots underway or in preparation covering very different types of vessels, operations and locations around the world from Russia to the Philippines, Africa to the UK.

I am delighted that the first vessel to be awarded under GSA’s Responsible Fishing Vessel Standard, operates in a MSC-certified fishery.  Whilst the MSC standard is focused on environmental criteria, we have long recognized the industry-wide importance of strengthening workers’ protection and welfare at sea. MSC participated in the development process for the RFVS, and very much welcome this and other initiatives which seek to verify and improve labor conditions and crew welfare at the vessel level through independent verification processes” commented Rupert Howes, CEO Marine Stewardship Council  “That vessels already participating in the MSC program, are part of the first wave to undergo RFVS audits, is a huge credit to their skippers and crews and testament to the fact that many of our partners set the benchmark for best practice across the global fishing industry.”

Learn more about the audit process in our blog post featuring Malcolm McNeill, Managing Director of Australian Longline Fishing. https://blog.seafoodassurances.org/

Notes to Editors

  • Australian Longline Fishing has been operating since 1995 and is registered in Hobart Tasmania. It is the sole Australian operator in Antarctic waters and has licences to fish for both Patagonian and Antarctic Toothfish. Vessels work to the sustainability standards set by CCAMLR and the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA).  Toothfish sourced from the Southern Ocean is Marine Stewardship Council certified and also considered a ‘Best Choice’ by the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch.  Australian Longline Fishing currently operates two longliners with a third embarking on its inaugural trip in January 2020. The first vessel to be certified was the 56 metre Antarctic Discovery, registered in Hobart. It carries a crew of 20-25 plus two observers. https://www.australianlongline.com.au admin@australianlongline.com.au   
  • Global Seafood Assurances (GSA) is an independent, not-for-profit organization.  The GSA vision is to provide high quality, end to end, fully traceable, assurance for seafood, supporting the sustainable development of global production while protecting people and planet. GSA works with partners where standards already exist, and creates transparent and credible standards to fill gaps where needed. The Responsible Fishing Vessel Standard was developed by GSA through a transparent and rigorous two-year process. It enables fishing operations to provide assurance of decent working conditions and operational best practice from catch to shore. http://www.seafoodassurances.org/Home/Index  RFVS@seafoodassurances.org