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MSC launches new global standard for sustainable fishing

Matt Watson

Matt Watson

MSC Oceania Senior Fisheries Outreach Manager

Silhouette of large fishing vessel on water
The MSC has today launched its new global standard for sustainable fishing. The release of MSC Fisheries Standard version 3.0 follows the most extensive review of marine science and fisheries best practices ever undertaken by the organisation. 

The launch of the new Standard means that certified fisheries will remain leaders in sustainable fishing, going further to protect marine wildlife, fish stocks and ecosystems. The new Standard has also been streamlined to ensure language is clear and easy to understand and to reduce complexities. 

Highlighting the increasing pressures on fisheries, marine ecosystems and food systems from overfishing, climate change and biodiversity loss, the MSC’s Chief Executive, Rupert Howes, praised the commitment, engagement and insight shown by industry, fisheries managers, conservationists and scientists in their contributions to the new Standard. The new requirements will drive progress in sustainable fishing, helping to address the urgent need to conserve our ocean while also feeding a growing global population, he added.

New and stronger requirements

The Standard includes a new definition of, and greater protections for, endangered, threatened and protected (ETP) species. It introduces a new policy to increase confidence that shark finning is not taking place within certified fisheries and puts greater responsibility on certified fisheries to prevent and reduce the impact of lost fishing gear, known as ghost gear. It also sets stronger requirements for effective monitoring and surveillance of fishing operations, particularly those on the high seas, and for international agreements on harvest strategies to safeguard shared fish stocks.

The new Standard is the culmination of more than four years of research, public consultation and testing, during which the MSC reviewed more than 600 submissions from stakeholders with expertise in fishing, ocean conservation, certification and seafood.

Standard comes at a critical time

Rupert Howes, MSC’s chief executive, said: "The launch of the new Standard comes at a time when the critical and urgent need to end overfishing while feeding a growing global population has never been more profound. Sustainable fishing is a global endeavour in which the fishing industry, governments, scientists, conservationists, retailers, brands and consumers all have a role to play.

"We have been humbled by the level of commitment and insight shown by these sometimes disparate groups in their contributions to developing the new MSC Fisheries Standard. This high level of stakeholder involvement demonstrates the collective sense of urgency to protect our ocean and safeguard seafood supplies into the future and recognition of the role the MSC can play in accelerating this transformation through the engagement of our partners. The new MSC Fisheries Standard provides a global benchmark to drive forward real and lasting change in how our oceans are fished by confidently recognising and incentivising fisheries that are world leaders in sustainability."

The progress made and the challenges ahead

The MSC Fisheries Standard was first developed in 1998 following the creation of the MSC from a partnership between WWF and the consumer goods giant Unilever. The Standard codifies the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization’s (UNFAO) Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries so that wild fishing operations and those selling their products can credibly verify their sustainability claims. Certification to the Standard is incentivised and rewarded by the opportunity to sell seafood with the MSC's blue label.


Today more than 530 fisheries, representing 15% of the global wild marine harvest, are certified to the MSC Fisheries Standard. However, with over a third of the world’s fish stocks overfished, resulting in the loss of US$88.9 billion in ocean benefits every year, and around 20% of marine species at risk of extinction, more needs to be done to protect fish stocks and ocean biodiversity together with the people and economies which depend on them.

Responding to this challenge, the MSC has committed to supporting the delivery of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, with an ambition of engaging a third of the world’s wild seafood catch in its programme by 2030. The release of the MSC Fisheries Standard version 3.0 sets the foundations for these efforts.

The MSC Fisheries Standard version 3.0

How the Standard has changed: learn about the key updates and additions from our biggest-ever review.

The MSC Fisheries Standard version 3.0