Press release

Proposed changes to MSC Fisheries Standard now available for public review

February 1, 2022

Amongst proposed changes are new requirements on endangered threatened and protected species, shark finning, and ghost gear.

The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) has today released its proposed updates to the MSC Fisheries Standard. Stakeholders are invited to review and feedback on the proposals online until Monday 4 April.

The MSC Fisheries Standard is the leading international standard for sustainable fishing. More than 446 fisheries, representing 17% of global wild marine harvest, are certified to the Standard.

Requirements within the MSC Fisheries Standard are regularly reviewed to reflect best practice in fisheries management. The current Fisheries Standard Review started in 2018 and has involved the most extensive consultation ever undertaken by the organization, with the participation of over one thousand stakeholders. Following approval of the draft Standard by the MSC’s Board of Trustees, the process is now entering its final stage with a 60-day public review.

The proposed Standard contains significant improvements which will ensure that MSC certified fisheries continue to be recognized as world leaders in sustainability. It is the culmination of 16 in-depth projects to review the Standard. These projects all involved extensive research and stakeholder consultation, with many incorporating independent analysis of fisheries management.

The draft Standard proposals, if adopted, will make improvements to MSC’s requirements in key areas identified through initial rounds of consultation. These include:

  • New requirements on endangered, threatened, and protected (ETP) species including a new method for classifying species as ETP. The method combines approaches from marine conservation and fisheries management to identify species and stocks in need of additional protection. As a result, protection will be more targeted with fisheries expected to eliminate or minimize their impacts on such species to enable their populations to recover.
  • Shark finning is already prohibited in MSC certified fisheries, but to strengthen the MSC’s requirements further all fisheries retaining sharks will be required to have a Fins Naturally Attached (FNA) policy, without exception. An FNA policy means all sharks retained by the fishery must be landed with their fins attached. The proposal has been informed by consultations and independent research which showed that FNA was the most viable policy option to ensure shark-finning is not taking place.
  • The MSC’s requirements for fishing gear lost or discarded at sea are to be strengthened. To minimize the risk of unintentional capture or entanglement of marine life in ghost gear, fisheries will need to implement management measures to prevent the loss of fishing gear and to minimize its impacts when it is lost or discarded.
  • The complexity of the Standard has been reduced where possible with the objective of making assessments more efficient. Whilst fisheries must still attain the same level of performance, the entire standard was reviewed to simplify language, remove ambiguity, and reduce the number of indicators that fisheries are assessed to. As a result, the number of scoring issues has been reduced overall.

Dr. Rohan Currey, Chief Science & Standards Officer at the Marine Stewardship Council said:

“The past 30 years have seen significant strides made in sustainable fishing. New science, technology, and regulation have transformed the way we fish and manage our ocean resources. Yet overfishing and the deterioration of our oceans continues.

“The next 8 years will see a huge collective drive to improve our understanding and management of humanity’s impact on our oceans through the myriad of commitments and efforts inspired by the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and Decade of Ocean Science. The new MSC Fisheries Standard will be instrumental in delivering this change. By distilling science, knowledge, and best practice into a tangible set of requirements for fisheries, this Standard provides one of the most powerful tools we have to ensure a sustainable future for our fisheries and oceans.

“Today’s announcement is the culmination of hundreds of contributions from scientists, fisheries experts, conservationists, businesses, governments, and many others. We are hugely grateful to all those who have provided input and insight into the review so far. We look forward to receiving feedback.”


Contributing to the review

Other proposals available to review include those relating to harvest strategies and control rules as well as habitat and ecosystem requirements. The full draft MSC Fisheries Standard is available online at msc.org. Anyone interested in finding out more about the changes is also invited to attend a public webinar on 15 February to speak with members of the MSC’s Fisheries Standard Team.

The MSC Board of Trustees will make the final decision to approve the new Standard in June 2022.
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