RFS fishing

Marks & Spencer has ramped up its sustainable seafood credentials with an “industry leading” pledge to source from fishing vessels that meet strict environmental and human rights standards.

The retailer today (19 April) became the first UK supermarket to make a worldwide commitment to the Responsible Fishing Scheme (RFS), run by industry levy body Seafish.

Under the commitment - which covers fresh, frozen and canned seafood - all fishing vessels supplying M&S will be certified by the RFS, or actively engaged in a time-bound plan to achieve RFS certification, by 2021. UK boats have been given a deadline of 2017.

“We are the first to go out with a commitment that covers our entire seafood supply chain, not just the UK but all of our global suppliers too,” Hannah McIntyre, M&S aquaculture and fisheries manager told The Grocer.

“This pledge means people can shop at M&S knowing we have done everything we can to protect not just the sustainability of our seafood supply chain but also the people working to catch our fish.”

The RFS is the only global standard that audits compliance on board fishing vessels. It guarantees seafood has been responsibly caught and handled, and the boat has the highest standards on crew welfare, fair pay, health and safety and human rights.

“The commitment from M&S is another huge boost for RFS and it further marks the intent of the UK seafood industry to be recognised worldwide for its work on reducing social and welfare issues,” said Tom Pickerell, technical director at Seafish.

“There is a collective call for seafood to be socially responsible as well as environmentally sustainable and as a result we are working with fishermen at the heart of that supply chain to demonstrate adherence to best practice in crew welfare.”

The RFS pledge comes after Lidl and Aldi overtook M&S in terms of the number of MSC-certified SKUs on shelves for the first time in February. 

M&S insisted it continued to support MSC-certified fisheries, and McIntyre confirmed the two schemes would run alongside each other as part of the retailer’s sustainable sourcing efforts.