Frequently asked questions about the Developing World Program — Marine Stewardship Council
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Frequently asked questions about the Developing World Program

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Why do fisheries decide to become MSC certified?

Hundreds of fisheries worldwide have achieved MSC certification. Products from these fisheries can use the MSC's globally recognised blue ecolabel.

Certified fisheries

  • Will be able to use the MSC ecolabel and be internationally recognised as operating sustainably.
  • Can experience improved market access for their products as seafood buyers and retailers make increasing commitments to sustainable sourcing.
  • Have the potential to attract investment and funding for the fishing community.

MSC certification helps ensure seafood remains a globally accessible resource, providing food security and livelihoods for millions of people long into the future. 

How can I get MSC certified?

Getting certified involves a voluntary assessment process. The assessment is a multi-step process, carried out by independent Conformity Assessment Bodies (CABs).

The main steps in the assessment process are:

Pre-assessment: CABs assess the strengths and weaknesses of the fishery against the MSC Standard. They then provide a report that highlights any gaps in the performance of the fishery. This helps the fishery decide whether to progress toward a full assessment or work on improvements in the fishery first.

Full-assessment: The CABs undertake a comprehensive assessment of the fishery against the MSC Standard.

We recommend taking time to research CABs so you can choose the one that offers you the best service and value for money. Accreditation Services International offer a full list of CABs accredited to carry out MSC assessments

You can find out more about the assessment process in our Get Certified! leaflet

Is the MSC program only open to large fisheries?

No, the MSC certification program is open to all fisheries, regardless of scale, type, size and location.

More about eligible fisheries >

Do I need lots of scientific information to pass the assessment?

MSC encourages fisheries to collect data but recognises that not all fisheries have comprehensive scientific data that can be used for assessments. 

We have developed an alternative set of assessment methods for fisheries that do not have quantitative data, called the Risk-Based Framework (RBF). Data-limited fisheries can be certified if they are operating sustainably.

Is there anyone that can support me through the assessment process?

Yes, fisheries can benefit if they have support from other organisations as they move to MSC certification. Many organisations are interested in supporting fisheries taking part in an MSC assessment. Fisheries can decide to develop partnerships with these organisations, such as non-governmental organisations (NGOs), fishing industry representatives, government agencies or any active organisation that wants to collaborate.

More information and guidance can be found in Partnering for Sustainable Fisheries >

What if my fishery does not meet the MSC Standard?

Fisheries that have areas that need improving can decide to start a Fisheries Improvement Project (FIP). In a FIP, fisheries work together with stakeholders to identify the appropriate actions needed to address gaps identified in the pre-assessment.

Tools are available to help fisheries that need to make improvements, such as:

This can be used to develop and report an action plan for improvement and address gaps in your fishery's performance.

This can be used to benchmark the performance of your fishery as it improves towards meeting the MSC Fisheries Standard.

Are there costs associated with certification?

Yes. The cost of certification can vary depending on the complexity of the fishery, availability of information and the level of stakeholder involvement. MSC is not involved in setting the costs associated with assessment nor does it receive payment for assessments.

There are two main costs associated with engaging with the MSC. 

  • Costs of improvements towards MSC

A pre-assessment may identify performance gaps in the fishery and improvements may need to be made prior to proceeding to a full assessment. Examples of improvements may include collecting data on catch or setting harvest control rules. Making improvements often involves additional costs.

  • Costs of assessment and certification

The costs incurred during the full assessment are those of the team that carries out the assessment. The best way to get an estimate of the costs for your fishery is to get in touch with different CABs and gather a range of quotes for likely costs of the assessment process.

Funding sources

There are a number of funding sources available to fisheries that want to get certified. Some examples of these are:

  • The Sustainable Fisheries Fund (SFF) provides grants to fisheries anywhere in the world, specifically to help with costs of getting certified to the MSC Standard
  • There are various NGO's that can provide funding for certification of small-scale fisheries
  • Fisheries have also been able to get funding support from donor organisations, private organisations and government agencies and there are an increasing number of initiatives available to provide funds for developing country fisheries

Find out more about funding opportunities >

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