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Good preparation is the key to smooth certification. While assessment to MSC Fisheries Standard is carried out by accredited third-party certification bodies, we are here to help you before, during, and after the process.

Can my fishery be certified?

MSC certification is available to all wild-capture fisheries, regardless of their size, scale, ecology, geography, or technology. 

These include single species, multi-species, trawl, long line, hand raked, pots, freshwater, marine, inshore, offshore, demersal, pelagic, and enhanced fisheries. 

Which fisheries can't be certified?

Ineligible fisheries are those that:

Target amphibians, reptiles, birds and/or mammals 

Use destructive fishing practices (such as poison or explosives).
Have been successfully prosecuted for forced labor violations within the last two years. 
Are conducted under a controversial unilateral exemption to an international agreement. 
Are purely aquaculture (although some forms of enhanced fishery are eligible for assessment). 

Can enhanced fisheries be certified?


To be eligible for MSC certification, enhanced fisheries must meet criteria based on: 

Who assesses the fishery?

Assessments are conducted by accredited independent certifiers - Conformity Assessment Bodies (CABs). 

Full list of CABs for MSC assessments

What are the costs?

Certification is paid for by the fishery client. The MSC does not receive payment, only the certification body you have chosen. Anecdotal information from certified fisheries suggests the cost can vary from USD $15,000 - $120,000. 

The cost will depend on:  

We recommend that you get a few quotes and take in to account the certifier's experience with your region, gear type, and species as well as the price.

How long will it take?

Assessment against the MSC Fisheries Standard can take 12 to 18 months. 

What if my fishery has limited data?

Small scale and developing country fisheries may not have access to the detailed research data that underpins an MSC assessment. The MSC has developed a framework for these fisheries called the Risk Based Framework

Can we get help to become certified?

You will need to budget to cover the cost of each key stage of MSC certification. Depending on where your fishery is located, there may be grants that you can apply for. Your local MSC representative can advise you on what is available and how to apply.
The MSC also has developed tools and technical assistance to help your fishery make the improvements required to meet the standard. An increasing number of fisheries are making the changes to become sustainable with the hope of achieving certification. This has led to considerable growth in organized efforts to improve fisheries, often called Fishery Improvement Projects (FIPs)

What are the stages of MSC certification?

Pre-assessment (optional)

Identifies any potential challenges for certification. If pre-assessment is positive, a fishery may proceed directly to full assessment. Alternatively, a fishery may first address issues that need improvement.

Full assessment

Includes opportunities for stakeholder input and peer review. Takes between 8 and 18 months with the average time being 12 months.


Lasts up to five years. During this time the fishery makes any improvements required as a condition of certification.

Annual audits

Examine any significant changes that might have occurred either in the physical environment or in the management of the fishery.


Occurs within five years of the last certificate being granted.

Gaining the support of stakeholders

We recommended that you contact relevant stakeholders such as scientists, NGOs, fisheries managers, authorities, and other fishers at the very beginning of the assessment to build trust, reduce the likelihood of any unforeseen setbacks, and help your assessment go smoothly.

How are fisheries scored?

Fisheries are scored against the three principles of the MSC Fisheries Standard

The 3 Principles of the Fisheries Standard


There are 28 performance indicators that sit under the three principles of the MSC Fisheries Standard. 
Your fishery will be assigned a score for each performance indicator, where 60 is the minimum acceptable performance, 80 is global best practice and 100 is near perfect performance. 

To become certified, your fishery must score: 

  • At least 60 for each of the 28 performance indicators 
  • An average score of 80 across all performance indicators under each of the three principles
    If your fishery scores between 60 and 79 for any performance indicator, you will be required to take appropriate action as a condition of certification. This action needs to improve the performance of your fishery so that it scores 80 or above for that indicator. The timeframe to make these improvements is typically five years or less. 

Scorechart for certification


What happens after certification?

You will join a collective of over 300 engaged fisheries, supplying the world with over 25,000 sustainable seafood products. 

Your certifier is required to carry out audits every year of the five-year certification period. Audits will examine any significant changes that might have occurred either in the physical environment or in the management of the fishery.

  • Your certifier has the right to conduct an unannounced audit at any time or schedule more frequent audits if circumstances indicate the need.
  • Ensure your budget includes sufficient funds to cover the cost of audits for the duration of the certificate.
  • Failure to make adequate progress can be enough justification for the certifier to suspend or withdraw your certificate.

Promoting your certified sustainable seafood

Now your fishery is certified, your clients may wish to also consider getting Chain of Custody certified so your catch can carry the MSC blue fish label.

The MSC Chain of Custody Standard gives assurance that products bearing the MSC blue label can be traced to an MSC certified fishery. 
Date of issue: 13 March 2019
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Americas Fisheries Team

Anthony Mastitski

Fisheries Outreach Manager, US East

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Dan Averill

Senior Fisheries Manager, US

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Erin Murray

Fisheries Outreach Manager, Western US

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Francisco Vergara

Fisheries Consultant, Mexico​

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Julissa Melo

Fisheries Outreach Manager, South America

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Marin Hawk

Senior Fisheries Program Manager, Americas

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Rodrigo Polanco

Senior Fisheries Manager, South America

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Stefan Miller

Fisheries and Commercial Manager, Canada East

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