Fishery Improvement Projects

Increasing market demand for sustainable seafood has led to considerable growth of Fishery Improvement Projects (FIPs).

Credible FIPs are multi-stakeholder initiatives that aim to improve a fishery towards sustainability and MSC certification. The MSC works to support such improvement by developing tools and building capacity on the ground.

How the MSC defines a credible FIP

The MSC recognises the important contribution that FIPs can make to improving overall fisheries health and in promoting sustainable seafood. However, we believe that it is important that they are operated in a manner that is credible: that their actions are transparent; that they clearly show improvement in fishery performance; and that these fisheries ultimately demonstrate their sustainability through a robust, independent assessment process. 

Our credible FIP definition is supported by a capacity building program and a series of fishery improvement tools that help stakeholders, funders and retailers monitor the progress of FIPs against the MSC Fisheries Standard as a best practice benchmark.

4 steps to a credible FIP

A credible FIP involves four key steps, each with associated tools and support mechanisms.

  1. Undertake MSC pre-assessment

    A gap analysis against the MSC Fisheries Standard is the first stage of a credible FIP. The MSC Pre-Assessment Template can be used for this and should be carried out by an approved assessor.

  2. Develop an action plan for improvement

    An action plan linked to MSC performance indicators and designed to close gaps in the performance of the fishery should be developed by someone with MSC expertise using the MSC Action Plan Tool. The end goal should be reaching the MSC Fisheries Standard.

  3. Implement actions and track progress

    Implement the actions as set out in action plan and track progress consistently and transparently using the MSC's Benchmarking and Tracking Tool. Progress should be publicly reported on an annual basis.

  4. Enter full MSC assessment

    Validate the improvements in the fishery toward sustainability through the comprehensive, transparent and independent MSC assessment process. This must be carried out by an accredited certification body.

Fishery improvement tools

The MSC has several improvement tools to support the progress of fisheries towards MSC certification:

Pre-assessment template

An MSC pre-assessment provides a determination of how a fishery performs against the MSC Standard. This allows for gaps in performance to be outlined. The process for undertaking an MSC pre-assessment is described in the MSC Fisheries Certification Requirements.  

Fishery Improvement Action Plan Tool

The purpose of this tool is to provide templates and operational guidance for developing a fishery improvement action plan that will address the gaps in a fishery's performance. This includes timeframes, milestones, resources, responsibilities, and budgets needed to move a fishery towards sustainability. Action plans are intended to help potential MSC clients set out and implement actions to allow the fishery to meet MSC performance requirements within a specified timeframe. 

Partnering for Sustainable Fisheries guide

A guide on how to develop and work in partnerships with key stakeholders, covering the resources, funds, knowledge, skills and experience needed to support fisheries improving towards MSC certification.

Benchmarking and Tracking Tool

The Benchmarking and Tracking Tool (BMT) allows a fishery to benchmark the environmental performance of a FIP against the MSC Fisheries Standard. Users can also track the FIP's actual and expected progress.

The BMT provides a method of consistently reporting information about status of a FIP and generates a visual summary dashboard of information to help interested parties understand how the fishery is progressing. 

Risk-based Framework

Access to data can be a barrier to MSC assessment, this is particularly true for small scale and developing world fisheries. The MSC has a set of precautionary risk-based indicators for the assessment of data-deficient fisheries.


Help for FIPs

Our technical consultants register below lists experts who can provide services to fisheries as they work towards meeting the MSC Standard. 

Those listed on the register understand the requirements of the MSC Fisheries Standard. They can help with: 

  • Conducting a gap analysis of fishery performance against the Standard
  • Developing and assisting in the implementation of a fisheries improvement action plan
  • Project managing MSC assessments or liaising between the fishery and the assessment body 

The technical consultant register is tiered. Individuals are listed as either technical consultants or associate technical consultants. The difference between the two tiers is the level of practical experience in the application of the MSC Fisheries Standard that the consultant has.

Code of Good Practice

Individuals and organisations listed as being able to provide technical support for fisheries improvements must have signed up to the Code of Good Practice for technical consultants.

Technical consultants register disclaimer

This information is provided as a resource only; the inclusion of individuals or organisations in this list does not constitute endorsement by the MSC or by Accreditation Services International. MSC includes consultants in this list upon receiving statements of experience provided by consultants, where such experience at face value meets the requirements outlined in the MSC's Technical Consultants Requirement document, where such consultants have signed up to the Code of Good Practice and where such consultants have provided references satisfactory to the MSC. The MSC does not carry out further checks to ascertain the expertise of such consultants. Anyone engaging a consultant from this list must satisfy themselves that the consultant is suitable for their particular purpose. Neither the MSC nor Accreditation Services International accepts any duty of care to anyone using this list. Neither MSC nor Accreditation Services International will have any liability to any party in respect of performance or suitability of any consultant or in relation to any failure by a consultant to adhere to the Code of Good Practice. Consultants provide Fisheries Improvement services as independent contractors.

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