Engage with a fishery assessment

Many people contribute to a fishery assessment, your contribution is valuable and will lead to a better assessment of that fishery.

  • Are you affected or will you be affected by a certification decision on a particular fishery? 
  • Do you have an interest in the fishery being considered for certification and/or in other resources potentially affected by the fishery? 
  • Do you have information relevant to the assessment of the fishery for MSC certification?
  • Do you want to comment on the performance of the certifier?

If you answered yes to any of the questions above, you should consider yourself a stakeholder in that fishery. You should have your say and get involved in the MSC assessment process.

Why should I get involved?

As a stakeholder, you are an essential source of information that will be needed to conduct a meaningful assessment. Whether you are a scientist, a fishery manager, a seafood processor, a government representative, a community member, a conservationist, or other stakeholder with an interest in an assessment outcome, your information contributes to a thorough assessment. 

Your input helps ensure:
  • The issues important to you or your organization are taken into consideration in the assessment; 
  • The assessment of the fishery is well-informed and comprehensive; 
  • The outcome of the assessment is consistent with the MSC Fisheries Standard


of fishery assessments between 2012 and 2015 received stakeholder comments


of comments contributed to a change in score


stakeholder comments were received between 2012 and 2015

How and when you can comment

In order to comment on a fishery assessment, you need to contact the certifier and identify yourself as a stakeholder at the beginning of the process. The certifier will update you on each step of the assessment process and let you know when you can participate. It is the certifier’s responsibility to contact all potential stakeholders in a fishery. 

Fishery assessment stages

1. Fishery announcement, stakeholder identification and assessment team is formed

In this step, the certifier proposes a group of independent experts as the assessment team. They will evaluate the fishery against the MSC Fisheries Standard.  

You are invited to comment on the assessment team.

2. Defining the assessment tree

In this step, the certifier and the assessment team define how the fishery will be assessed. The MSC Fisheries Standard provides a default assessment process, called the default assessment tree, that defines the performance indicators and scoring guideposts of the assessment. The default assessment tree is suitable for most fisheries and makes the scoring process consistent across different fisheries.  

If the fishery has special characteristics that cannot be scored using the default assessment tree, the assessment team will propose revisions to allow for these characteristics. 

For example, for data-limited fisheries, the MSC has created a Risk Based Framework (RBF) as an alternative scoring methodology for certain performance indicators.  

The assessment tree is open for public review and comment for 30 days. 

3. Information gathering, stakeholder meetings, and scoring

This is your chance to meet the assessment team and make sure they are aware of any information that you have about the fishery. You can also submit written information for consideration in the fishery assessment. 

The certifier makes a site visit where they discuss any issues with local stakeholders, fishery managers, and the fishery clients to ensure the assessment team is aware of all potential information and issues.  

The assessment team looks at all the relevant information (including technical papers, reports and other direct and indirect sources).  

During this period of data collection and analysis, you can maximize the impact of your comments by organizing your information and data submissions in line with the assessment tree. For example, you might make a case to the certifier about why you believe certain information translates into a specific score for each performance indicator in the assessment tree.

4. Client and peer reviews

At this stage, the assessment team creates a draft report, which assesses the fishery’s performance against the MSC Fisheries Standard.  

The report contains the scores, rationale and proposed certification outcome. Also in the report are proposed conditions of certification and an associated action plan required to address lower scoring performance indicators. The action plan is made by the fishery client and not the assessment team. 

The fishery client is given the opportunity to comment on this first draft. After that step, the report is revised and sent to two independent experts for peer review. The shortlist of proposed peer reviewers will be published after the site visit for 10-day consultation.   

This is your chance to say if you think the chosen peer reviewers have the appropriate experience and expertise to complete the review or to suggest other potential reviewers to the certifier.  

The peer reviewers provide a written review of the revised draft. These reviews and the certifier’s response to them will be available for you to read in full in the Public Comment Draft Report. 

6. Final report and determination

After reviewing and responding to the information submitted during the consultation period, the certifier finalizes the Draft Report and decides if the fishery should be certified.  

In the final report, the certifier addresses all relevant issues raised and comments submitted on the Public Comment Draft Report. 

When the MSC has received the report, it is included in the fisheries program update email and publishes it on the Track a Fishery website.   
When the report is published, registered stakeholders have 15 working days to lodge an objection to the decision. 

If an objection is raised, the fishery proceeds into the MSC’s Objections Procedure (below).

7. Public certification report and certificate issue

This is the final step in the process. If no objections have been raised, the certifier’s determination is immediately accepted. If the certifier recommends that the fishery is certified, they will issue and publish a Public Certification Report. The fishery will be certified for a period of five years, subject to surveillance audits. 

Surveillance audits and recertification

Certifiers audit the fishery every year over the five-year certification period. 

Each surveillance audit will examine any significant changes either in the physical environment or in the management of the fishery. It also examines if the fishery is progressing on any action plan defined in the certification report. Failure to make adequate progress on an action plan can mean that the certifier suspends or withdraws the certificate.  

Registered stakeholders will be notified when the fishery is audited, and opportunities will be made available to provide comments or new information. When each audit is complete, the certifier provides a copy of the audit report to the MSC that is published on the MSC website. 

A recertification assessment typically begins about four years after the fishery’s certification. The recertification assessment process follows the same steps as the fishery’s original assessment.


Objections and how they work

To make an objection, you must be registered as a stakeholder in the assessment process. 

If you believe the certification body’s scoring is flawed to the extent that the recommendation is incorrect, you may appeal by submitting a Notice of Objection.


The objection process


Icon of calendar showing 15 days notice period for objections

The final report and determination is released. 

A 15-working day period for objections begins. 

Stakeholder(s) submit a Notice of Objection. 

Icon illustrating independent adjudicator decision for objection notices

The MSC assigns an independent adjudicator.  

The independent adjudicator accepts or dismisses the Notice of Objection. Icon illustrating 20 day objection consideration period

The Notice of Objection and acceptance is posted on the MSC’s Track a Fishery website. The independent adjudicator arranges a call with parties to consider if agreement can be reached.  

There is then a 15-working day notice period for written submissions. Submissions will also be posted on the Track a Fishery site.  

Certifiers have 20 working days to consider the objection, final report and written responses.Icon illustrating oral hearing for objections

The independent adjudicator will consult with the objector, the fishery, and the certifier to determine if the certifier has adequately addressed the issues raised. 

If a solution is not reached, an oral hearing is held.

Icon illustrating adjudicator sending back assessment to certifiersAfter the oral hearing, the independent adjudicator will dismiss the objection 


ask the certifier to change the assessment scoring. 

Icon illustrating independent adjudicator accepting changes in objection process

If the certifier is asked for changes, the adjudicator can accept the changes and the fishery will be certified


the adjudicator upholds the objection. If the objection is upheld, the fishery will not be certified.


An objection does incur costs as it involves the time of many parties and the fees of the Independent Adjudicator.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization's guidelines for fisheries certification require the objector(s) to pay the costs of an objection. However, MSC requirements state this can be waived entirely if an objector can demonstrate appropriate financial hardship.

Any costs to the objector go purely to fund the legal process, and do not cover MSC’s internal costs, or any additional costs to the fishery or the certifier.



All third party accredited certification bodies are required to have their own complaints procedure on their website. If you need to raise a complaint against any certification bodies or auditors, please use their own complaints procedure as a first step. After this, it’s possible to raise a complaint with MSC’s independent accreditation body, Accreditation Services International (ASI).
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