Fishing Vessles

Responsible fishing: the journey from net to plate

Jul. 2 2021 - 7 min

Stretching across the world’s oceans, lakes and rivers, the global seafood industry is an enormous business, valued at over $400 billion USD. From fishermen to food companies, dozens of stakeholders are involved in the sourcing, transporting and serving of seafood. 

However, this extended supply chain creates a challenge for sustainability, making it difficult to keep track of different actors’ social and environmental practices. To help ensure best practices for fishing, Bureau Veritas accompanies clients throughout the supply chain, from sourcing to consumption. 

Limiting environmental impact for ships 

Before they even hit the water, fishing vessels have the potential to minimize their environmental impact by using alternative low-carbon fuels or propulsion methods. By integrating onboard solutions such as batteries or liquefied natural gas (LNG) as fuel, shipowners can reduce greenhouse gas emissions from their fishing vessels. 

Bureau Veritas offers key expertise in working with low- and zero-carbon fuels like LNG, LPG, methanol, hydrogen and ammonia, providing dedicated rules and notations. We support shipowners in integrating batteries or hybrid-electric power onboard, offering safety certification and BATTERY SYSTEM and ELECTRIC HYBRID notations. 

Ensuring social accountability onboard 

Once a vessel is at sea, shipowners and managers have a responsibility toward their crewmembers to ensure that their working conditions are safe and humane. A variety of voluntary standards exist to help vessel owners protect workers, providing guidance and best practice measures for the fair treatment of fishermen. 

Bureau Veritas audits vessels to programs like the Fairness, Integrity, Safety and Health (FISH) Standard for Crew and the Responsible Fishing Vessel Standard (RFVS). Both standards address working conditions, labor contracts and onboard accommodations, and the RFVS further covers sustainability aspects of catching and transporting fish. Bureau Veritas auditors who have been trained to conduct Maritime Labour Convention audits can verify onboard conditions, helping vessel owners demonstrate compliance. 

Verifying food safety from port to plate 

The journey from sea to shore presents another set of challenges for sustainability, as the transportation of seafood must remain safe, hygienic and legal. Once fish arrive at port, they must be correctly unloaded, handled, measured and weighed before being transported to their final destination in factories, restaurants and markets. 

To keep fish fresh during transportation, Bureau Veritas offers a QUICKFREEZE notation for the refrigerating areas of fishing vessels and factory ships. This notation ensures that the design and equipment of these units enables quick-freezing of fish to specified standards. 

At port, Bureau Veritas provides key food safety inspection services, including hygiene, cold chain and HACCP1 audits, and laboratory testing on ice, water and fish. Our experts further provide quality and freshness grading and weighing inspections during unloading at port. We also participate in the Fishery Observer Program, which collects catch data from vessels, enabling stakeholders to assess the impact of fishing on fish stocks, observe catch composition and verify traceability. 

Certifying end-to-end traceability  

Upon arrival, suppliers must be able to prove to buyers that a responsible approach to sustainability has been taken throughout the value chain. From limiting the environmental and social impact of sourcing, to ensuring clean unloading and safe transportation, traceability is key to proving suppliers’ claims. 

Bureau Veritas certifies clients to the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) eco-label. Built on three principles, MSC focuses on maintaining fish stocks, minimizing impact on the marine ecosystem, and improving fishery management. This is complemented by MSC Chain of Custody (CoC) certification, which is applicable to the entire supply chain. With this, suppliers can verify end-to-end traceability, ensuring buyers that fish came from MSC certified fishing. 

Bureau Veritas also provides a customized solution for responsible fishing and sourcing that covers food safety and quality, environmental impact, social accountability and traceability. Our experts perform a gap analysis and feasibility study to create a personalized program for each client built on best practice from sourcing, to transportation, to use. Clients can use this as a standalone program, or as an interim solution while becoming eligible for MSC certification

Building sustainability into each step 

Because the value chain for the fishing industry is long and complex, it is essential to improve sustainability at each stage and for each supplier. As a classification society and testing, inspection and certification partner, Bureau Veritas aims to help stakeholders verify that the fish they catch, transport, buy and sell are certified, healthy and sustainable – from end to end.