How we meet best practice

It’s vital that everyone, from fishers to retailers, scientists to consumers, has confidence in the MSC blue fish tick label and the credibility of the claims made by MSC certified organisations.

Ensuring confidence

We have safeguards 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 process for fisheries and supply chain businesses is working and meets best 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. 

Fishery assessments are carried out by auditors who are experts in fisheries science and management and are independent of the fishery and the MSC. The certification process is managed by an independent conformity assessment body, also known as a CAB. 

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 independent CABs 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.


Watch video

How we meet best practice


Additional safeguards

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

To mitigate these risks, the MSC has built in assurance safeguards:

  • Appointing Assurance Services International (ASI)as an external oversight body for CABs.
  • Ensuring CABs 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. As with fisheries, these companies are certified by a third-party audit. 

This means all seafood sold with the MSC blue fish label can be traced back to a certified sustainable source. This is important because around 30% of seafood globally is mislabelled. DNA testing has shown that mislabelling rates for MSC labelled seafood are less than 1%

A traceable supply chain is necessary to fight seafood fraud. It means consumers can trust that what they are eating really is what it says on the packet. 

Our Chain of Custody Standard set us apart from other sustainable seafood initiatives, such as ratings cards, that don’t guarantee traceability.

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

MSC certification is used as an indicator in the UN Convention on Biodiversity’s Aichi Targets. Part of the UN’s decade-long initiative to significantly reduce biodiversity loss by 2020, these targets were widely consulted with the international conservation and governance community.

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.

The review is focused on key work areas running from 2018–2020. Work areas include assurance oversight, strengthening auditor training and scrutinising conflict of interest controls.

Read more about the MSC Assurance Review

  • '{{item.Image.Title}}', {{item.Image.Artist}}, {{item.Image.Description}}