The traceability credentials of British seafood supply chains are set to be boosted by a new scheme to improve standards and transparency at UK fishing auctions and ports.

Seafish and ports representative body the British Ports Association (BPA) are developing plans to create a Responsible Fishing Port Standard, which they hope will “provide assurance to seafood sellers and buyers that all certified or engaged fishing ports and auctions are acting in a responsible manner with the seafood landed and sold through the market”.

Fishermen wanted the fish they land to be “treated in the right way at port” and here was a growing need for transparency across the full seafood chain, with ports and auctions identified as areas that would benefit from guidance on industry-accepted best practice, said Seafish.

There are numerous legislative, environmental and operational procedures required of BPA members “but at the moment it’s up to each port to interpret those themselves, which could lead to inconsistencies”, said a spokeswoman for Seafish. “This is seen as an opportunity to harmonise operations and boost the reputation of the sector.”

BPA fishing ports group chairman Martyn Boyers, who is also CEO of Grimsby Fish Market, added: “The aim of the standard is to provide fishing ports and auctions around the UK with consistent guidance on the regulatory and environmental issues that affect the whole industry, and improve standards. Many of the ports in the UK operate individually and we believe a new standard will bring some uniformity and structure to their individual operations.”

The new standard will complement Seafish’s Responsible Fishing Scheme (RFS), which certifies fishing vessels in areas such as crew welfare and best practice in catching methods and is in the process of being rolled out across the UK fishing fleet.

The port standard should bridge the traceability gap between fish being landed and processed, and would boost the reputation of the sector, said Seafish technical director Tom Pickerell.

“As part of the scoping project, we will continue to work closely with the ports and supply chain to develop a set of objectives that this standard will achieve, and establish how it will complement the existing RFS to develop confidence in the auctions and fish markets for buyers and sellers.”

The BPA’s fishing ports group will further discuss proposals for the scheme in October.