How we meet best practice

It’s vital that everyone, from fishers to retailers, scientists to consumers, has confidence in the blue MSC label.

The MSC is the only global wild-capture fisheries certification program that simultaneously meets best practice requirements set by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, Global Sustainable Seafood Initiative (GSSI) and ISEAL.

Ensuring confidence

We have multiple checks in place so you can have confidence in the MSC label. These safeguards make up what we call the MSC assurance system. This system is used to make sure the assessment and certification of fisheries and supply chain businesses is working and meets best global practice. 


Best practice in fishery assessments

Under the MSC program, fisheries can get certified if they meet the MSC Fisheries Standard.

Independent certification

The MSC is a third-party certification program. This means we do not assess or certify fisheries, but only set the standard they have to meet. 

Fishery assessments are carried out by independent accredited conformity assessment bodies (CABs) with teams of experts in fisheries science and management who are independent of the fishery and the MSC.

What is a third-party program?

Third-party programs offer the highest level of assurance that the outcomes of assessments are unbiased. The MSC, in consultation with stakeholders, sets standards for sustainable fisheries and supply chains. The assessments are carried out by the independent assessors following processes that are set by the MSC. 

Here’s how our program compares to other forms of certification: 

  • Third-party program: an independent assessment shows that the organisation’s product or service meets a standard.
  • Second-party program: peers, such as an industry association or a buyer, check if the organisation’s product or service has met a standard.
  • First-party program: an organisation self-assesses if its product or service meets a standard.

The MSC receives no money for assessments or certifications.

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How we meet best practice


Additional safeguards

Third-party certification is widely regarded as the most trustworthy system for objective assessments, but there can still be risks to the integrity of any system. These can include real or perceived conflicts of interest.

To mitigate these risks, we have built in additional safeguards, including:

  • Appointing Assurance Services International (ASI)as an external oversight body for conformity assessment bodies.
  • Ensuring assessors follow ISO 17065, an international Standard used in many sectors including food safety, to ensure that assessment teams operate in a competent, consistent and impartial manner.
  • Providing mandatory online training and relevant qualification requirements for assessors.
  • Publishing assessment reports on our Track a Fishery website.
  • Including independent peer review to check the expert judgement within fishery assessments.

Peer Review College

To ensure the consistency and independence of the MSC fishery certification process, all fishery assessment reports are peer-reviewed by independent scientists from the MSC’s Peer Review College.

The Peer Review College assigns two peer reviewers to check each fishery assessment report. These reviewers are selected for their knowledge of the relevant fishery type and freedom from any conflicts of interest. 

These scientists comment on the draft scores given to a fishery. They also highlight any information missing from the CAB’s rationale for the scoring. Any issues raised by the peer reviewers must be considered and responded to by the CAB in the next version of the report that goes out to public comment and for a follow-up review by the peer reviewers. 

Learn more about the Peer Review College or read the full Peer Review College Structures & Procedures.

Other safeguards include:



Best practice in supply chain traceability

All companies that buy and sell certified seafood comply with the MSC Chain of Custody Standard. Like fisheries, these companies are certified by an independent third-party assessor. 

This means all seafood sold with the MSC blue fish label has come from a certified sustainable source. A traceable supply chain also helps to fight seafood fraud. 

Our Chain of Custody Standard set us apart from other sustainable seafood initiatives, such as ratings cards. The MSC outperforms all other wild-capture fisheries certification programs recognised by the Global Sustainable Seafood Initiative (GSSI).

Certification provides the highest level of assurance that the product is verified to be sustainable, is harvested legally, and is traceable back to its source.

Certification provides the highest level of assurance that the product is verified to be sustainable, is harvested legally, and is traceable back to its source

Certification and Ratings Collaboration

Compliance with external bodies

We go to great lengths to ensure we meet the highest international benchmarks for credible certification and ecolabeling.



Additional recognition of best practice

In addition to meeting international guidelines and Standards for best practice, our program is well regarded by numerous international organisations who scrutinise the role of standard setting in safeguarding our oceans.

Global leaders in ocean sustainability

The UN recognises the MSC as a major ocean stakeholder, and we directly contribute to the work of UN bodies such as the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization).

Data from the MSC is used by the UN Environment Programme and other intergovernmental organisations to track progress towards international goals to end overfishing and protect biodiversity, including the UN Convention on Biodiversity’s Aichi Targets.

We also have a key role to play in helping companies and governments achieve the United Nations Environment Programme’s Sustainable Development Goals by providing best practice guidance for 'what good looks like' in a specific industry.

Maintaining best practice

Just as we develop our Standards in accordance with the latest scientific understanding, we periodically review our assurance system to increase its effectiveness and address real or perceived issues within the system.

Read more about how we maintain our assurance system.


More about the MSC

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What is the MSC?

The Marine Stewardship Council is an international non-profit organisation. We recognise and reward efforts to protect oceans and safeguard seafood supplies.

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Is seafood with the MSC label really sustainable?

You can trust that seafood with the blue MSC label was caught by a responsible fishery in a sustainable way.

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The MSC and the UN Sustainable Development Goals

Data from the MSC is used by the UN Environment Programme to track progress towards international goals to end overfishing and protect biodiversity.

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