Skip to main content

This guide aims to give you an overview of what to expect from the Chain of Custody certification process.

Which businesses need certification?

Any seafood sold with the blue fish MSC label needs to be traceable from ocean to plate. For this to work, every company along the supply chain needs to be certified to the MSC Chain of Custody Standard. The Standard ensures an unbroken chain where certified seafood is identifiable, segregated and traceable. 

If your company takes ownership of MSC certified seafood products and wants to sell them as certified, you need Chain of Custody certification.

If your company wants to sell certified seafood to consumers you will also need to apply to use the MSC label.


Who doesn’t need certification?

There are exceptions. You do not require MSC Chain of Custody certification if you:


  • Buy pre-packed certified products that will be sold to the end consumer without being opened, re-packed or re-labelled (consumer-ready tamper-proof products)
  • Buy certified products but do not wish to sell them as MSC certified. In this case the chain is broken and your customers may not make any claim about the product being MSC certified.

Who assesses my business?

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

Full list of CABs for MSC assessments.

What will be assessed?

Certifiers will audit your business to ensure

  • You are purchasing MSC certified product from a certified supplier
  • Certified products are clearly identifiable
  • Certified products are separated from non-certified
  • Certified products are traceable and volumes are recorded
  • You have a good management system in place

How long? How much does it cost?

The time and cost of your assessment will vary depending on the complexity and size of your organisation as well as your certifier's rates and travel expenses.

We recommend that you get quotes from more than one accredited certifier.

Preparing well for your audit can also help to reduce time and costs.


What else do I need to know?

The MSC Chain of Custody Standard includes different requirements to meet the needs of different types of business.

There are three versions of the Standard and we provide guides for each. If you're unsure, your certifier or a member of MSC staff can help you decide which version is best for your business.

Default Chain of Custody

Default Chain of Custody is for companies operating in one or a few locations.

Examples of businesses that are eligible for Default certification:

  • A fishmonger serving final consumers and caterers with the majority of sales by volume and value going to the catering trade 
  • A seafood company with a trading office, processing facility and storage unit
Get Certified: CoC Default
Description: For single or multi-site organizations trading certified seafood such as a trader operating from one office or a processor with several factory locations.
Date of issue: 10 May 2021
Download download file PDF - 2 MB

Group Chain of Custody

Group Chain of Custody is for businesses with a central office function and many locations distributing, processing or trading MSC certified seafood.

Examples of businesses that are eligible for Group certification:

  • A co-operative with distribution centres in multiple locations
  • A trans-national seafood processing company with multiple sites
  • A company whose central office sets requirements for operations at multiple sites or franchises
  • A group of independent companies at the end of supply chain, e.g. restaurants or fish mongers, with a group certification manager
Get Certified: CoC Group
Description: For organizations with a central office and many locations distributing, processing, or trading certified seafood such as cooperatives, franchises, and vertically integrated companies.
Date of issue: 10 May 2021
Download download file PDF - 2 MB

Consumer-Facing Organization Chain of Custody

Consumer-Facing Organization Chain of Custody is for most businesses selling direct to consumers.

Examples of businesses that are eligible for Consumer-Facing Organization certification:

  • Retailers
  • Restaurants
  • Caterers
  • Fresh fish counters

Businesses with more than one site can be certified to this version of the Standard if all of the following apply:

  • All sites are under the control of the same management system, maintained by your company’s head office
  • Your head office has an ownership or franchise relationship with each site, or a temporary right to manage all sites and staff
  • Your head office controls seafood purchases, ensuring all sites can only order seafood from certified suppliers
Get Certified: CoC Consumer-Facing
Description: For retailers, restaurants, caterers, and fresh fish counters of any size looking to sell MSC or ASC certified seafood directly to final consumers.
Date of issue: 10 May 2021
Download download file PDF - 2 MB

What happens after certification?

Your certification lasts for three years. During this time you will have regular surveillance audits.

Surveillance audits

Audits are usually once a year, but the frequency depends on the version of the Standard your company is certified to. The process is similar to your initial assessment. An auditor will check you're maintaining the correct procedures to identify, segregate, control, manage and trace MSC certified seafood.

Some certifiers offer combined audits with other programs, so you may be able to schedule an MSC audit with another.

There is a small chance that your company will receive an unannounced audit. Each certifier must conduct unannounced audits for at least 1% of their clients.


How can my business use the MSC label?

To use the label you will also require an ecolabel licence agreement.

Upon certification, your business will receive a certificate and a Chain of Custody code. With this code you can apply to use the blue MSC label.


Where can my business buy certified products?

You can find suppliers around the world with MSC Chain of Custody certificates using our Find a supplier directory.

Have questions?

We're here to help. Use the directory below to find the MSC representative for your region.

Americas Commercial Team

Stefan Miller

Fisheries and Commercial Manager, Canada East

Email Stefan
Angelina Skowronski

Market Development Manager, US West

Email Angelina
Ian Stelmack

Commercial Manager, US East

Email Ian
John Harrison

Market Development Manager, US East

Email John
Ken Cuthbert

Senior Commercial Manager, Canada

Email Ken
Laura (Johnson) McDearis

Senior Market Manager, US

Email Laura
Nicole Kunin

Commercial Manager, US East

Email Nicole

Find out more

Supply chain certification guide

Supply chain certification guide

An overview of what to expect from the Chain of Custody (CoC) certification process.

Consumer insights

Consumer insights

Learn more about American shoppers who are increasingly ‘voting with their forks’ for sustainable seafood.

After certification: resources

After certification: resources

When you have CoC, you're part of a global network of traceable, sustainable seafood supplies.