The MSC was set up to help secure supplies, now and into the future, from wild-capture fisheries. Any wild-capture freshwater and marine fishery can be assessed against the MSC standard but pure aquaculture fisheries are not within the scope of the MSC assessment.
The MSC promotes equal access for all wild-capture fisheries, regardless of their size, scale, ecology, geography or technology. The MSC has a program specifically designed to facilitate the participation of developing countries in certification.
So far a wide range of fisheries have applied for certification - from the very small to the very large. Examples of types of fisheries currently in the program include:
• Single species and multiple species
• Trawl, longline, handraked and pots
• Freshwater and marine
• Inshore and offshore
• Pelagic and demersal
Fisheries around the world have been certified. Visit our map of certified fisheries.
MSC fishery certification is a voluntary program - meaning that a fishery will only be assessed if it chooses to. No fishery can be assessed against its knowledge or will.
Enhanced fisheries and the MSC
In 2009, MSC released two policy documents on Enhanced Fisheries that clear up a common point of confusion about the scope of the MSC programme. Between pure wild-capture fisheries and pure aquaculture, there is a broad spectrum of fisheries that involve human intervention – the enhanced fisheries. Some enhanced fisheries lie more towards the aquaculture end of the spectrum. Others are closer to pure wild-capture.
MSC’s policy on Enhanced Fisheries was initially released in March 2009 as Policy Advisory 10. It was then confirmed and elaborated following further consideration by the TAB with the release of TAB Directive D-001 (v2) (PDF, 72kb) on 31 July 2009. These documents define the point in the spectrum of enhancement up to which the MSC programme can be applied. While the MSC confirmed its decision not to engage in intensive aquaculture in 2006, it has a long history of engaging with enhanced fisheries dating back to the certification of the Alaska salmon fishery in 2000.
From November 2011 the Enhanced Fisheries requirements are included in the MSC certification requirements.
Please note: This ‘plain English guide’ is a précis of the MSC policy on Enhanced Fisheries. It is not a definitive guide to whether a fishery falls within the scope of the MSC standard. If you would like to find out if your fishery is within the scope of the standard, please contact your certifier.
The MSC has examined enhanced fisheries in three categories:
1) Catch and Grow fisheries - also known as Capture-based Aquaculture. For example, in mussel fishing where the fishers catch small, young mussels and grow them on ropes. The important factor that separates this from pure aquaculture is that the fish start out being caught from the wild. Some catch-and-grow fisheries fall within the scope of the MSC standard.
2) Hatch and Catch fisheries - also known as Culture-based fisheries. In these fisheries, the fishers introduce eggs, larvae or young fish into the wild from hatcheries and then catch them from the wild when they have grown up.
3) Habitat modified fisheries - for example, providing ropes for mussels to grow on.
Which fisheries can be assessed under the MSC standard and which can’t?
In order for an enhanced fishery to fall within the scope of the MSC programme, it has to meet criteria under each of the following three headings:
a. The link to and maintenance of a wild-stock
i.The fishery must rely on catching fish from the wild at some stage. These fish can be taken at any stage in their lives including eggs, larvae, young fish and adults.
ii. The species must be native to the geographic region of the fishery
iii. The wild fish stock that the enhanced fishery is linked to must be maintained by natural breeding.
iv. In Hatch and Catch fisheries, you may not use the ‘hatched’ stock to rebuild depleted wild stocks.
b. How the fish are fed and looked after
i. You can’t substantially augment the fish’s food. In Hatch and Catch fisheries, you can only feed the fish up to a small size before releasing them into the wild. Most of their growth then takes place in the wild. ‘Small size’ here is defined as not more than 10% of the average adult maximum weight, such that not less than 90% of the growth is achieved in the wild. In Catch and Grow fisheries, the fish (or shellfish) have to feed themselves. For example, mussels (filter feeders) growing on ropes feed themselves. They are thus in scope. Tuna fattened in pens need feeding by humans and are thus out of scope. This is to maintain an aspect of ‘wildness’ rather than the feeding involved in pure aquaculture.
ii. In Catch and Grow fisheries, you can’t routinely give the fish medicines.
c. The impact the enhanced fishery has on the habitats and wider ecosystem
i. Changing the habitat in enhanced fisheries can include physical changes to the sea bed or river course or adding man-made structures. Any changes to the habitat must not cause serious harm to the natural ecosystem. It must also be possible to undo your changes to the habitats or wider ecosystem.
For full details of Enhanced Fisheries see the MSC certification requirements.