Risk-based assessment for data-limited fisheries — Marine Stewardship Council
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Risk-based assessment for data-limited fisheries

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The MSC Fisheries Standard is developed to be equally applicable to all fisheries. However, its strong focus on quantitative data can be a barrier to some, including traditionally operated small-scale and developing country fisheries.

To ensure the MSC program and its associated benefits are accessible to all fisheries, the MSC developed a set of precautionary risk-based indicators for the assessment of data-deficient fisheries - the Risk-Based Framework (RBF).  

How does the MSC Risk-based Framework work?

The RBF gives the assessment team a structured outline to assess the risk that a fishery is having an impact on species, habitats and the surrounding ecosystems.

The RBF relies on consultation with fishery stakeholders through information-gathering workshops, as well as any data that is currently available from the fishery. There are four methods used to assess different aspects of the fishing activity:

  • Consequence Analysis (CA) - uses any available data to assess trends in the target stocks of a fishery
  • Productivity Susceptibility Analysis (PSA) - assesses how likely a stock is to recover when depleted, as well as how likely a species is to interact with fishing gear
  • Consequence Spatial Analysis (CSA) - aims to identify how habitats may be affected by fishing activity
  • Scale Intensity Consequence Analysis (SICA) - assesses the likelihood that a fishery has an effect on the wider ecosystem

Each of these methods produces a score, which is then converted to allow comparison with the default assessment method.

Who should use the RBF?

The RBF may be used in any fishery assessment against the MSC Fisheries Standard. However, it is advantageous to use the default assessment method where possible. Use of the RBF’s highly precautionary methods will likely result in poorer scores for the assessment larger scale fisheries.

If a certification body and fishery client decide to use the RBF, they must announce this at the beginning of assessment and allow stakeholders to comment.

Does a fishery need to decide to use either the default assessment or the RBF?

No. The use of the RBF is integrated within the default assessment, and will only be triggered in some, clearly defined circumstances. It will be used for specific indicators where a fishery cannot be scored against the default method due to lack of data. Other indicators must still be scored using the default assessment method.

The certification body will advise a fishery client when the RBF is needed.

Does 'data poor' equate to poor management?

Not necessarily. Many data limited fisheries may be very well managed using precautionary management measures which don’t rely heavily on quantitative data.

Note that the RBF does not cover the assessment of management: Principle 3 of the Fisheries Standard. Data-limited fisheries' management will be assessed and scored as with any other fishery, using the default assessment method.

How was the RBF developed?

The RBF method was originally developed by Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) in its Ecological Risk Assessment for Effects of Fishing (ERAEF). In 2008, the method was trialled in seven pilot fisheries around the world. Following the outcome of the trial, risk-based assessment scientists were consulted to finalise the RBF, which was integrated into the MSC Fisheries Standard in July 2009.       

Between 2012 and 2014, the RBF was reviewed as part of the MSC’s Fisheries Standard Review to refine and improve the methodology further.

Contact us

For further information please email standards@msc.org

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