MSC chain of custody standard for seafood traceability — MSC
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MSC chain of custody standard for seafood traceability

The MSC Chain of Custody (CoC) standard for seafood traceability makes sure that the MSC ecolabel is only displayed on seafood from an MSC certified sustainable fishery. It means that consumers and seafood buyers can have confidence that the fish they are buying comes from a fishery that meets the MSC environmental standard for sustainable fishing.

2014 Review

In 2014, MSC has committed to review the entire CoC program. The review allows us to evaluate our standard and certification requirements, and to improve on the accessibility and consistency of the CoC program.

There are various opportunities to get involved and help shape the MSC CoC standards. See the full list of proposals.

•    Why is the MSC Chain of Custody standard needed?
•    How was it developed? 
•    What does it assess?
•    How are businesses assessed against the MSC Chain of Custody standard? 
•    How long is certification valid for?
•    How can I find Chain of Custody certified businesses? 
•    Download the MSC Chain of Custody standard
•    Contact us

Why is the MSC Chain of Custody standard needed?

Ensuring fish sold with the MSC ecolabel comes from a certified sustainable fishery
Traceability is a hot topic in the seafood industry. Mislabelling is a recognised problem and the complex international supply chain for most seafood products makes it difficult to find high quality information about the fish source. Ideally, labels on seafood products should provide verifiable information about the species, the source fishery and sustainability information.

Once a fishery has been certified, all companies in the supply chain that wish to handle or sell an MSC certified product not in consumer-ready packaging, must have MSC Chain of Custody certification. This way every link is checked to make sure the MSC label is only displayed on seafood from a MSC certified sustainable fishery.

All companies that wish to use the MSC ecolabel must apply to use the MSC ecolabel prior to using it. Find out more about how to use the MSC ecolabel.

Keeping illegally-caught seafood out of the supply chain
Chain of Custody also helps to keep illegally-caught fish out of the seafood supply chain. Illegal fishing is a serious problem, damaging marine environments, livelihoods, and fishing communities around the world. Find out more about how the MSC program helps keep illegally caught seafood out of the supply chain.

How was it developed?

The MSC Chain of Custody standard for seafood traceability was established in December 1999 and based on existing best practice traceability standards. In August 2005, version 2 of the standard came into use. And in August 2011, version 3 of the standard was published. The MSC revises its standards based on the MSC Standard Setting Procedure which ensures that the process is in compliance with the ISEAL Code of Good Practice for Setting Social and Environmental Standards, and that the revision includes at least 2 rounds of public consultation. Read more about why you can trust the MSC ecolabel.

What does it assess?

To get Chain of Custody certification, businesses must be audited to show they have effective traceability, storage and record-keeping systems which prove that only seafood from a certified fishery carries the MSC ecolabel. For example, companies have to show that they keep certified fish separate from non-certified fish, and that they can trace every delivery of certified fish to a Chain of Custody certified supplier.

Every company with a valid Chain of Custody certificate is given a unique certificate code that must be displayed on consumer-ready certified seafood products to show buyers and consumers that they are buying from an approved supplier. The MSC ecolabel can only be used on seafood from an MSC certified fishery by businesses that have a valid MSC Chain of Custody certificate.

How are businesses assessed against the MSC Chain of Custody standard?

Businesses that wish to get MSC certified appoint an independent, accredited certifier to assess their business against the MSC Chain of Custody standard. When conducting assessments, certifiers use MSC Certification Requirements Part B Chain of Custody certification, which sets out how to assess businesses against the MSC Chain of Custody standard. 

Find out more about MSC’s third-party certification process.

How long is certification valid for? 

MSC Chain of Custody certification is valid for 3 years. During this period the business will be revisited to check that it continues to meet the MSC Chain of Custody standard. After 3 years the business must be reassessed if it wishes to remain in the MSC program.

How can I find Chain of Custody certified businesses?

Use our Find a supplier search tool to find all businesses with an MSC Chain of Custody certificate to supply seafood from MSC certified fisheries.

Download the MSC Chain of Custody standard

Download the MSC Chain of Custody standard version 3 (PDF, 226.41 KB)

Download additional normative requirements - Annex BD 1.3 (PDF, 106 KB)

Contact us

For further information please email productintegrityteam@msc.org

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