The MSC and its response to the coronavirus pandemic

Fishing communities and seafood businesses worldwide continue to put seafood on our tables despite dealing with travel bans, social distancing requirements and other restrictions as a result of the global Covid-19 pandemic. In response, our team at the Marine Stewardship Council has changed the way it is working so we can support our valued partners at this exceptionally challenging time.

20 March 2020 (updated 22 March 2022) 

Since the pandemic began in March 2020, we have introduced temporary changes to our Standard requirements. This has ensured MSC certified sustainable seafood remains available worldwide without compromising the integrity of our global certification programs. These changes are detailed below.

Audits and assessments

In 2020, we introduced a change to permit remote auditing and assessment for both fishery and supply chain clients where Covid-19 restrictions or health concerns prevent on-site audits.  We expect in-person visits to be held where possible, and risk mitigation measures in place if a remote assessment is carried out for any business entering certification for the first time.

This change to our requirements has been extended and will be in place until 29 March 2023.

Supply chain businesses with an MSC Chain of Custody certificate who are required to undergo an independent labour audit were also given longer to complete this.  They can now submit a self-assessment instead of an in-person audit, in which case the MSC has the right to commission a labour audit of their sites. This gives us oversight of the risks of forced and child labour in MSC certified supply chains, while giving partners the flexibility needed to show compliance with our requirements during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

This change to our requirements will be in place until a revised version of the requirements are published. 

In 2020,  fisheries were also offered a six-month extension on the usual timelines for MSC assessments and certifications. There will be no further changes to certification dates, but we allowed assessors to give fisheries an additional 12 months to complete any improvements required by their certificate that depend on actions or decisions by management agencies. The extension does not apply to other improvements or extend the length of their certificate.

MSC Offices

Our offices around the world, including our London headquarters, are reopening in-line with government guidance. We are mindful of staff well-being and health and safety, and are ready to respond to any changes in official guidelines.

MSC colleagues globally remain available during their usual office hours on email, by telephone and video conference. If you do not have a regular MSC contact person, the email and telephone contact details for our regional offices are available here

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