INDUSTRY GETS BEHIND RESPONSIBLE SEAFOOD SOURCING TOOL
Article Date: 2015-10-05
Businesses from across the seafood industry are calling on others to take advantage of Seafish’s responsible sourcing tool, to assist buyers in making informed purchasing decisions, having recognised its potential over the past year.
Launched in September 2014, the ‘Risk Assessment for Sourcing Seafood’ (RASS) is now successfully aiding a wide range of businesses across the UK supply chain including Waitrose, Young’s Seafood, Regal Fish, the seafood delivery service, and the award winning fish and chip chain, Papa’s Fish and Chips.
The free online platform now lists 280 fishery profiles containing information on stock status, the efficacy of management, as well as seafloor habitat and bycatch impacts.
Available to the entire UK supply chain of seafood buyers - in the wholesale, foodservice and retail sectors – RASS gives greater clarity over the status of the seafood they are purchasing both at stock and fisheries levels. RASS can be accessed at www.seafish.org/rass.
RASS was introduced to answer a need from the industry for clear, and scientifically robust information on the impacts of fisheries. This empowers seafood buyers in the industry to make better informed decisions, and manage their reputation. Many businesses like Young’s Seafood are using the tool to ensure all their supplies adhere to the company’s principles of responsible sourcing. It also makes it a lot easier for business by collating and analysing often very technical data and presenting this in a usable format.
David Parker is marine biologist at Young’s explains: "We use RASS to assess the fisheries that we source our seafood from. We have our own metrics to assess if a fishery is responsible or not. Some of the information we need is easy to come by, but a lot is a lot harder and can take a lot of time, involving reviewing scientific journals, speaking with academics and talking to fishermen.
"With RASS we find that Seafish has already done a lot of that hard work for us. We use the data to inform our own assessment, and we can also request specific reports if there is a supplier that is not included on the database.”
Like Young’s, Waitrose, the sixth-largest grocery retailer in the UK, uses RASS to support its own responsible seafood sourcing strategy. Developed over the last 15 years, its policy demands that suppliers must only source fish from fisheries or farmed aquaculture operations that are responsibly managed.
Riyaz Dhalla, brand policy manager at Waitrose said:
"We have our own internal mechanism for approving any new suppliers or seafood species for our fish counter or pre-packed seafood range.
"RASS is our belt and braces. It provides us with additional background information, including scientific assessments, that is really useful.
"That gives us the extra assurance that an independent expert has looked at the product and approved it for sale. It’s an extra level of due diligence, over and above our own.”
RASS also allows the supply chain to be completely transparent, using real-time data to ensure customers are given all the information they need, when they need it, freeing up precious time and resource within the business.
Mike Brummit is general manager at Regal Fish adds: "By directing our customers to our website, where they can access the RASS tool, they can assess all of the current information available on their purchase – where it was caught and by whom. This enables us to provide a premium level of transparency and takes the pressure off our hardworking sales team.
"We have tried a number of systems, but RASS definitely stood out and has raised the bar. No other tool was as intuitive, or provided the comprehensive level of data we were looking for.”
Overall RASS has ensured that businesses using the tool can guarantee the quality and sustainability of the product they serve to consumers and meet the growing demand from their customers for responsibly sourced seafood.
George Papacaoullas of Fish and Chip chain, Papa’s Fish and Chips expands: "If you want to be at the forefront of providing a sustainable product it’s a brilliant system. It allows you to have an honest conversation with your suppliers, staff and customers. It promotes transparency and keeps the whole industry on its toes.
"We audit our menu regularly and if we cannot source a certain species responsibly we will remove it. This demonstrates to our customers that we are dedicated to bringing them the most responsibly sourced product available. RASS helps us justify these decisions and I believe customers respect us for it.”
Tom Pickerell, Seafish Technical Director, said: "Working with and having ambassador businesses from across the industry such as Waitrose, Young’s Seafood, Regal Fish and Papa’s Fish and Chips is a huge endorsement for our responsible sourcing tool as a powerful reference resource for commercial seafood buyers.
"It was essential to Seafish that it created a platform that business were able to consult with in order to make their own sound sourcing decisions based on existing company principles, rather than being told what seafood they should and should not buy, and we believe we’ve done just that.
"Over the past year we have seen a great pick up and would encourage more businesses to follow in the footsteps of these businesses as we continue to build on the number of fisheries and information available on RASS. Crucially the tool will also eventually address ethical and welfare issues around sourcing seafood that remains an area of great concern for the industry.
"As an industry authority on seafood, Seafish is committed to promoting best practice throughout the supply chain, from UK commercial fishermen to producers and ultimately retailers and foodservice businesses who interact daily with the millions of seafood lovers across the country.”