Fisherman’s Welfare Accreditation

Fisherman’s Welfare Accreditation

Tackling modern slavery concerns

Assuring working conditions for fishermen

Sea food assured sourcing

The Fisherman’s Welfare Accreditation (FWA) has been developed to provide independent accreditation and a quality assurance scheme for owners of fishing vessels focussing on the working conditions and welfare of fishing crew.  This new form of accreditation has been launched to help assure both vessel owners and buyers of sea food about the actual welfare facilities and provisions provided on fishing vessels that supply UK and overseas markets.

Why the need for accreditation?
In recent years there has been much concern about the working conditions of crew on fishing ships.  For example the Sunday Times published an article “Slaves at Sea” in January 2014 describing inhumane exploitation of crews on some ships serving UK ports and whose catch might well end up being served in top London restaurants and UK supermarkets.  As reported in the Sunday Times article by George Arbuthnott:

some British skippers are alleged to be forcing them to work 22-hour days for no pay, with little food, under the harshest of conditions[1]

Some victims have escaped with the help of fisherman’s welfare charities such as the Apostleship of the Sea and the Fisherman’s Mission which has helped bring the issues to wider public attention.

The purpose in setting up this new Fisherman’s Welfare Accreditation (FWA) is to help tackle this appalling problem which has been described as modern day slavery and to enable those fishermen who do adopt good working practices to differentiate themselves in the market place. This will enable those who wish to buy their seafood from ethical sources to do so with confidence.

Why is IRIS doing this?
IRIS Consulting carried out some research and consultancy work for Defra and the Marine Management Organisation which brought it into contact with people in the fishing industry who are aware of these problems.

Following discussions with these people IRIS agreed to help set up and host the FWA. IRIS is an independent research-based performance improvement consultancy and its clients include many Government Departments (such as the Home Office, Department for Work & Pensions, Ministry of Justice, Defra, Department for Communities & Local Government and the Health & Safety Executive).  Our team members include people with direct experience and knowledge of the fishing industries and Government regulation.

How will it work?
The accreditation process offers the vessel operator an independent review and report of:

  • what is done well,
  • what needs improvement
  • practical suggestions to achieve this.

The standards that will underpin the accreditation process will reflect industry best practice.  In order to ensure transparency and consistency these standards will be published and made available to fishing vessel owners, crew and buyers in the wholesale and retail sectors.  The standards will be reviewed regularly.  A FWA Advisory Panel comprising fishing industry experts and welfare organisations who will review the standards being applied.

We envisage that vessel operators may offer their FWA inspection reports to their wholesale and retail clients to provide confidence that the crews of their vessels are well cared for and that the on-board welfare facilities are appropriate for the size and operations of the vessel. This process enables owners to demonstrate that crew welfare facilities and provisions are suitable and fit for purpose with the credibility of independent accreditation.

The FWA accreditation does not duplicate inspection regimes that are already conducted by regulators for example Vessel safety (MCA) Vessel Crewing (MCA/MMO) crew immigration status (Boarder Agency).

Further information about the accreditation scheme and how it works can be obtained from:

Fisherman’s Welfare Accreditation

IRIS Fifth Floor

151 Wardour Street

London, W1F 8We

Tel: 020 7 287 0822



[1] The Sunday Times Magazine: 19 January 2014: “The slaves in peril on the sea”: pages 14-20