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You are here: Home Get certified! Get Certified! Fisheries Fishery assessment Step-by-step assessment

Step-by-step assessment

Full assessment is the detailed, public, rigorous process that your certifier will follow to see whether the fishery meets the MSC standard. It starts when the fishery client signs a contract with your certifier and the certifier notifies the MSC that the fishery is entering full assessment.

Every fishery that has announced full assessment is listed on the Track a Fishery page of this website and has its own dedicated web page that is updated as it moves through the 7 steps of assessment.

7 steps to certification

Step 1: Fishery announcement and assessment team formation

Step 2: Building the assessment tree

Step 3: Information gathering, stakeholder meetings and scoring

Step 4: Client and peer review

Step 5: Public review of the draft assessment report

Step 6: Final report and determination

Step 7: Public certification report and certificate issue

You also need to know about...

Scores and conditions

Objections

Small-scale and data-deficient fisheries

 

Step 1: Fishery announcement and assessment team formation

The certifier announces to general and targeted stakeholders that the fishery is undergoing full assessment. This announcement is provided to the MSC, who emails interested stakeholders, updates the MSC website and usually issues a press release. 

Advice to fisheries
You and the certifier should already have a detailed project plan so that momentum of the assessment is maintained once the announcement is made public.

It is also worth preparing for media interest. The certifier, the MSC and the client should agree an announcement date and prepare a joint press statement in advance, identify spokespeople, media targets and appropriate languages for the statement. This is usually undertaken by email or conference call and should happen 2-3 weeks before the certifier formally notifies the MSC that the fishery is entering full assessment.

You may also choose this moment to make direct contact with stakeholders that have an interest in the fishery. Establishing good relationships helps build a network of stakeholders who want the fishery to succeed, and these contacts will be well placed to contribute ideas, resources and capacity at later stages. 

A team of 2-5 independent fishery experts are appointed by the certifier to undertake the assessment. They are selected for their specialist technical knowledge of the type of fishery being assessed or other relevant experience. This team will score and assess the fishery using the Fishery Certification Requirements to guide the proces and steps.

Advice to fisheries
The certifier selects the assessment team and consults with stakeholders about who will be on the team. An announcement inviting stakeholders to comment on the proposed team is often placed on the MSC website at this stage. Fishery clients may also comment on the membership of the proposed team. Once the membership of the team is finalised, a list of team members is published on the MSC website.

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Step 2: Building the assessment tree 

The assessment will be conducted against an ‘assessment tree’ that sets up the structure for the scores and conditions for the fishery. The assessment tree uses the MSC environmental standard for sustainable fishing as its starting point, but adds a much greater level of detail specifying 'performance indicators', which define the specific areas of the assessment, and 'scoring guideposts', which show the performance levels that the fishery will be scored against. In the original MSC certification process, certifiers developed individual assessment trees for each fishery, allowing for its specific characteristics.  From July 2008, MSC has required the use of a default assessment tree, developed under its Quality and Consistency project.

A 30-day consultation period allows full public comment on the draft assessment tree from fishery clients, other stakeholders and the MSC. After the consultation period, the certifier publishes the final assessment tree on the MSC website. With the new default assessment tree, changes may still be allowed in some cases, where well justified by the fishery characteristics: any proposals for changes will again be made available for stakeholder comment.

Advice to fisheries
The fishery assessment tree is a critical element of the fishery assessment process – it defines how an individual fishery’s performance will be assessed, scored and conditions set. It is essential that you carefully review the draft assessment tree and provide comments to the certifier. If the fishery is complex, you may also wish to consult your own experts to provide in-depth information or arrange with the relevant management agency to play a role.

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Step 3: Information gathering, stakeholder meetings and scoring

The assessment team analyses all relevant information (including technical papers, reports and other sources) and conducts interviews with the client, fishery managers and stakeholders to ensure the team is aware of all potential information and issues. The assessment team uses this evidence to score the fishery’s performance against the assessment tree.

Advice to fisheries
During the data collection and analysis phase, the client fishery can help by organising information and data submissions to the certifier according to the structure of the assessment tree. You may also make a case to the certifier about why you believe certain information translates into a specific score for each performance indicator in the assessment tree.  Please note however that while the certifier must take the fishery client's comments into consideration, they are not required to accept them.

This is a key time for stakeholders to share their knowledge of the fishery and represent the views of their constituencies.

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Step 4: Client and peer review

The assessment team creates a draft client report that outlines a summary of the fishery, the environment it operates in as well as the management system. The report also contains the scores, rationale and proposed certification outcome as well as any conditions aimed at improving the fishery’s performance over the period of certification. The client is provided with time to comment on this draft. After this step the report is revised and sent to two independent experts for peer review. They provide a written review of the revised draft.

Advice to fisheries
This is your chance to see the first full draft of the report before it is published and circulated to stakeholders. It will present the fishery’s scores against the assessment tree and provide an indication of the possible outcome. Where the fishery has scored less than 80 under a performance indicator the fishery will need to reach agreement with the certifier on how to address this through a detailed agreement or ‘client action’ plan. The client action plan will be included in the draft and final assessment report of the fishery.

It is vital that you are confident that this report is a true and robust audit of the fishery and have a good understanding of the reasons behind any conditions.

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Step 5: Public review of the draft assessment report

Following the client and peer reviews, the certifier provides the ‘Public Comment Draft Report’ to the MSC so it can be published on the MSC website. The MSC also notifies stakeholders that the report is available for comment. The report is available for comment for at least 30 days.

Advice to fisheries
This is a chance for all stakeholders to input into the findings of the assessment team. Ensuring that stakeholders contribute at this stage can reduce the risk of objections later, so fishery clients may wish to encourage all those with an interest in the fishery to examine the report and participate. Towards this end, clients may wish to also work with the certifier to send email updates or organise meetings with interested stakeholders.

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Step 6: Final report and determination

After reviewing, considering and responding to all comments, the certifier revises the draft report and makes a determination as to whether the fishery should be certified as meeting the MSC environmental standard for sustainable fishing.

The certifier provides this report to the MSC for publishing on the MSC website. The MSC sends an email alert to all interested stakeholders and updates the MSC website with the report, allowing a period of 15 working days for parties to lodge their ‘intent to object’ to the decision.

Advice to fisheries
Carefully review the report and make sure that you are comfortable with any changes made since the first draft.

If you have built up close relationships with stakeholders, you should have a good idea of whether an objection is likely to occur. If ongoing problems have not been resolved then this is a last chance to work with your certifier to allay the stakeholders’ concerns and avoid a formal objection being lodged.

This is a good moment to think ahead to how you want to mark the occasion of your certificate being issued and to contact the MSC about media opportunities.

If your fishery has not been recommended for certification the assessment process should have revealed why and the determination should not be a surprise. Most likely you will have a deeper understanding of your fishery and the environment it is operating in. Your fishery can re-apply for assessment at any time.

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Step 7: Public certification report and certificate issue 

If no objections have been raised during the 15 working day period of ‘intent to object’, the fishery is certified. The certifier will issue a Public Certification Report, reflecting annual surveillance and any action plan commitments and will also issue a fishery certificate to the client.  The fishery is now certified for a maximum period of 5 years, subject to annual surveillance audits.

Advice to fisheries
This is a time to celebrate and promote your certification! You need to work with the MSC and your certifier to announce that you have achieved certification. This is big news and a great opportunity for media coverage and promotion, so identify what you want your public statement to be. It is worth developing a communications plan together with the MSC that outlines what will take place when, where and how.

Please note that the following things need to be in place before a public announcement can be made:

* The MSC must have received the Public Certification Report from your certifier;

* The certifier must have issued your fishery certificate;

* You must have agreed and signed a Surveillance Contract with a certifier as well as an Action Plan to fulfil any conditions.

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Scores and conditions

In order to obtain MSC certification, the fishery needs to obtain a score of 60 or more for each performance indicator. If a fishery achieves a score of less than 60 on any performance indicator, certification will not be awarded. Additionally, the fishery must have an aggregated score of 80 or more for each of the three MSC principles - set out in the MSC environmental standard for sustainable fishing - in order to be certified.

Where a fishery achieves a score for any performance indicator of less than 80, but at least 60, the certifier will set one or more conditions for continuing certification. In the absence of exceptional circumstances, the condition(s) shall improve performance of the fishery to at least the 80 level within a period set by the certifier but not longer than the term of the certification.

The certifier will specify an appropriate timescale for addressing each condition and should specify the outcome or targets for which you should aim. The certifier’s role is to offer guidance and make the required outcome clear to the fishery client.

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Objections 

If an objection is raised during the 15 working day period of ‘intent to object’ in Step 7, the fishery proceeds into MSC’s ‘Objection Procedure’. The Objections Procedure provides a mechanism for any disagreement with the assessment of the fishery to be resolved. If the objection cannot be informally settled, an Independent Adjudicator will review the objection. The Independent Adjudicator will make a decision on whether the objection should be upheld. Find out more about the objections procedure.

More details about the Objections Procedure

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Small-scale and data-deficient fisheries

The MSC is committed to fair and equal access for all fisheries seeking MSC certification. We are piloting a project to assess fisheries that lack sufficient detailed data to make a conclusive, scientific case for certification. The aim is to provide small-scale and data-deficient fisheries with an alternative route to certification, while maintaining the scientific rigor that characterizes the MSC program. Find out more about the Guidelines for the Assessment of Small-Scale and Data-Deficient fisheries project.

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