Developing our Standards

Every few years we review the MSC Standards so they remain relevant. Industry practices and scientific understanding evolve over time, so our standards need to evolve too.

Our standard reviews are consistent with best practice codes and guidelines provided by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), ISEAL, and the Global Sustainable Seafood Initiative (GSSI). These reviews engage academics, fellow NGOs, governments, and industry throughout the process. 

The Fisheries Standard review

Every five years, the Fisheries Standard Review (FSR) considers issues raised by stakeholders. It also considers data from our own monitoring and evaluation team. The aim is to make sure scientific developments and fisheries management best practice are reflected in MSC certified fisheries.

The review will also look at what we call the scope of the Fisheries Standard: what types of fishing activity can be assessed to the standard. 

The Fisheries Certification Requirements review

Every two to three years, we review the fishery assessment process. These reviews look at how academics, fellow NGOs, governments, and industry are involved in fishery assessments. A review may also consider how much time fisheries have to make changes to reach global best practice. 

New Standards

Seaweed

The Seaweed Standard is a joint venture with the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) and was launched in 2017. 

The ASC–MSC Seaweed Standard is the first international seaweed standard to incorporate United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (UNFAO) guidelines and to meet the International Social and Environmental Accreditation and Labeling Alliance (ISEAL) code of good social and environmental practice. The Standard was developed in consultation with academics, scientists, industry experts, and conservation groups.

Mixed Fisheries Standard

The MSC is working to create a new standard for assessing fisheries that catch multiple species at the same time. The proposed standard will offer greater efficiency and improved accessibility to the MSC program for such fisheries.  

How you can get involved

Hundreds of people have been involved in shaping our standards. Your expertise and insights can contribute to the development of the MSC Fisheries and Chain of Custody Standards.   

There are two main ways to get involved in the standard development process – identify an issue or contribute to a program improvement under consultation.

 

Identify an issue

If there is something that you think our program needs to improve on, whether this relates to our standards or our certification system, please send us an email with as much detail as possible to standards@msc.org.

Respond to an issue through consultations

You are invited to participate in public consultations. Online consultation opens twice a year, in March and September (details below). You can track, research, and comment each on issue in development.

How does the MSC respond to an issue?

  1. An issue is put forward by a stakeholder or is raised by the MSC.
  2. Issues are reviewed by the MSC, and some are taken forward.
  3. Issues are reviewed by the MSC through dedicated research, evaluation, and a process of public consultation and stakeholder workshops.
  4. Proposed revisions are tested to understand impact and usability.
  5. The issue is taken to the MSC Technical Advisory Board (TAB), an independent panel of experts. They review and make recommendations to the Board of Trustees. It is also taken to the Stakeholder Advisory Council (STAC) who advise on issue development. This council is made up of fisheries, supply chain companies, and eNGOs.
  6. The policy improvement is accepted by the Technical Advisory Board (TAB), adopted by the MSC Board of Trustees, and implemented.

What happens when you raise an issue?

We carefully assess every issue and decide when it will enter it into our development process.

How long does it take for issues to be resolved?

It takes time to make any modifications to our standards. Reasonable timeframes need to be allowed to give the issue due consideration and consultation, and ensure any changes are tested and implemented.
We also need to monitor and evaluate any changes that are introduced to make sure implementation is successful in achieving the intended outcome.
To make sure fisheries can adapt to changes they must be given time. The MSC is committed to the FAO Ecolabeling guidelines. These state that fisheries are given at least three years to adapt to changes to the standard.

For more on the Standards setting procedure, click here.

Engage in our consultations

There are two main consultation periods each year where we ask for your feedback on our Standards, around March and September. These periods can be 30 or 60 days in length.

How to participate in a consultation

When a consultation is open, we will email interested stakeholders. You can give your feedback on the issues and proposals raised in the consultation through an online survey. The survey is linked to from the MSC Improvements website along with all the resources you need to understand the issue.

You can always talk to the project lead if you need information and insights into the issue. Their contact details will be posted on the MSC Improvements website.  

What happens after you give feedback in a consultation?

MSC staff consider every response we receive as we develop an issue. Your responses are read by the Technical Advisory Board and inform their recommendations on an issue.
All responses we receive on an issue are published anonymously on the MSC improvements website in a report.
We also provide a summary response on key issues raised. At the end of the project we will provide evaluation of process including summary of how main feedback themes were incorporated into revisions.

Past consultations

Search through the consultations that have helped develop the MSC Standards.


Joanna Jones

Joanna Jones

Science Communications Officer

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Ashleigh Arton

Ashleigh Arton

Senior Research Analyst

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Lucy Erickson

Lucy Erickson

Science Communications Manager

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Robert Lefebure

Robert Lefebure

Senior Research and Data Manager

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Francis Neat

Francis Neat

Head of Strategic Research

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Katie Longo

Katie Longo

Senior Scientist

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