Friend of the Sea Project.

What is Friend of the Sea?

Friend of the Sea is currently a project of the World Sustainability Organization, an international trademark registered with humanitarian and environmental conservation mission. Friend of the Sea has become the leading certification standard for products and services which respects and protects the marine environment. The certification awards sustainable practices in Fisheries, Aquaculture, Fishmeal and Omega3 Fish Oil. Friend of the Sea also promotes pilote projects related to restaurants, maritime shipping, whale and dolphin-watching, aquaria, ornamental fish, UV creams and others.

How did Friend of the Sea get started?

Friend of the Sea was founded by Paolo Bray, Director of International Programs – Dolphin-Safe Project / Earth Island Institute. The Dolphin-Safe Project saved millions of dolphins from death in tuna fishing nets and started the sustainable seafood movement.

Friend of the Sea requirements for tuna companies include Dolphin-Safe approval by the Earth Island institute.

What about Friend of the Sea governance?

In order to minimise administration costs, Friend of the Sea has a lean structure, comprising:

1) The Board of Directors including:

– a President: Dr. Franco Bray, a leading Food Technologies consultant;
– a Director: Dr. Paolo Bray, Franco Bray’s son, Director of International Programs – Dolphin-Safe project / Earth Island Institute;

2) The Advisory Board, composed of at least 4 members from around the world, who are mainly involved in environmental NGOs or seafood industries. The members are approached and selected by the Board of Directors to serve a 2 year-term and may stand for reappointment. Current composition:

– Amod Salgaonkar (India, Seafood Trade)
– Kevin Soares (USA, Seafood Industry)
– Mariasole Bianco (Italy, NGO)
– Natalie Fort (Ghana, NGO)

3) A team of dedicated professionals to carry out Admin, Marketing, Outreach and Scientific tasks.

4) The Friend of the Sea Technical Committee – an independent technical body with a key role in the development and revision of the Standards. The TC is composed of 14 to 21 members from different fields of activities (Seafood, Distribution/Retail, Government, Certification Bodies, NGOs, Education and Media) and geographical regions. The members are elected by the Advisory Board through CV analysis (spontaneously received or upon request) to serve a 3-year term and may stand for reappointment.

How is Friend of the Sea financed?

In the first years, Paolo Bray privately financed the initiative, devoting his time as volunteer. As the project developed, the Earth Island Institute also supported Friend of the Sea in joint awareness activities.

Friend of the Sea is currently mostly financed by yearly royalties for the use of the Friend of the Sea logo. Fundraising for conservation and awareness campaigns and projects is being carried out and donations are expected to increase in the future.

Friend of the Sea Criteria

What are the Standard Criteria set by Friend of the Sea?

All the checklists are available for download in the “Standards and Certifications” section of this website. Please, do not fill in the checklists: they are for use by the auditors only.

Can both fishing and aquaculture sites be FoS certified?

Yes, they can. Friend of the Sea is the only international programme that can certify products from both fisheries and aquaculture with the same trademark.

Friend of the Sea believes consumers want only a sustainability ecolabel for seafood. Moreover, aquaculture and fisheries are strongly connected because of the potential reciprocal impacts and because fish feed mostly originates from wild-caught fish stocks. Therefore, Friend of the Sea standard includes requirements for sustainable fishmeal, fish oil and fish feed production.

Who sets the criteria for certification?

Initially, the Friend of the Sea Advisory Board set the criteria following consultation of key NGOs’ criteria and stakeholders’ opinions. Since 2008, based on a policy of continually improvement, several modifications have been incorporated.

Currently, during a public consultation period, the Friend of the Sea Technical Committee collaborates by sending comments and voting on the content of seafood standards developed and revised by the Friend of the Sea Technical and Scientific Department. Their votes are fundamental for the approbation or not of the standard(s).

Nonetheless, prior to such approval, the Friend of the Sea Advisory Board reviews all the proposed changes to ensure they are in compliance with FAO guidelines. Meetings and voting take place online.

If approved,  Accredia has to validate the standard(s) and finally the Board of Directors ratify the them.

The Friend of the Sea Technical Committee members, and any interested party, can also send comments at any time on how standards are working and how to improve them. In this case, the inputs are considered during the subsequent revision process.

How can I join the Technical Committee?

Stakeholders interested in becoming members of the Technical Committee can apply by sending an updated CV to the following email:

Every three years, 14 to 21 members from different areas of activity and geographic region are elected to serve on the Friend of the Sea Technical Committee. The Friend of the Sea Technical and Scientific Department carries out a selection process in which the Friend of the Sea Advisory Board analyses potential members’ CVs (spontaneously received or upon request) and elects, by vote, the members of the subsequent term.

The Friend of the Sea Audit Process

Who runs the audit?

Friend of the Sea audits against seafood standards must be performed by third-party certification bodies accredited by National Accreditation Bodies.

National Accreditation Bodies audit and accredit certification bodies that have requested to extend their scope of accreditation to the Friend of the Sea seafood standard.

Rina, DNV GL, Control Union, SGS and London Associati are the five certification bodies currently accredited by National Accreditation Bodies (or under accreditation) to carry out Friend of the Sea certification seafood audits.

When can the audit start?

Once the Audit and Licensing Agreement is signed, the certification body organises the audit with the interested company, normally within two weeks from receiving the application.

How long does the audit last?

Aquaculture site audits normally last 2 days per site plus up to 2 weeks for review of the audit report. Fishery audits normally last from 2 days to 2 weeks onsite, plus up to 2 weeks for review.

Who can see the checklist used by auditors during the audit?

The checklists for products from aquaculture and wild-catch fisheries are available for download on the website. Please, do not fill in the checklists: they are for use by the auditors only.

Following the audit, when is the audit report produced?

Certification bodies normally produce the audit report two weeks after the audit is completed.

What does the final certificate look like?

The certification body produces the final report attesting the positive conclusion of the audit.

Can stakeholders contribute to audit and contest audit results?

Individuals, companies and organisations can send objections regarding companies to be audited by filling in the Objections Form, which may lead to certification failure. Nevertheless, Friend of the Sea can accept only objections supported by evidence and received with at least 15 working days in advance of the planned audit.

Complaints about certification decisions in relation to the standards in force at the time of the audit shall initially be addressed to the certification bodies following their respective complaints procedures. If not satisfied with the response received from the certification body in charge, stakeholders can register complaints by filling in the Complaints Form.

Friend of the Sea Certification Costs

How much does the audit for Friend of the Sea certification cost?

The cost of a seafood audit depends on its complexity. A quotation is issued after all data is collected.

What is the yearly royalty fee and what do I get for it?

Royalties are yearly fees which cover authorised use of the Friend of the Sea logo on certified products. This is normal practice for the use of a registered logo like Friend of the Sea.

The pricelist is available here.