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MSC announces changes to labour reporting, objections and stakeholder engagement

The Marine Stewardship Council has released its updated Fishery Certification Process v2.1.

Today, the Marine Stewardship Council announced several changes to its Fisheries Certification Process following a review that began in 2016. The Fisheries Certification Process contains the requirements that Conformity Assessment Bodies must follow when assessing fisheries against the MSC Fisheries Standard

 "The Marine Stewardship Council is a listening organisation and this review began in response to feedback from partners and stakeholders on the complexity of the assessment process and the resources required to engage with it. To address this feedback, we aimed to reduce complexity and increase effectiveness of stakeholder engagement whilst maintaining the credibility and robustness of the whole process," said Rohan Currey, MSC Fisheries Standard Director.

The updated process will come into use after 28 February 2019, and will apply to all new assessments, as well as all reassessments, surveillance audits, scope extensions and expedited audits. The new labour requirements included in the update must be complied with by all fisheries in the MSC program by 31 August 2019.

Labour requirements

The Marine Stewardship Council condemns the use of forced or child labour and recognises the importance of social issues when considering sustainability. All fisheries in the program must complete and submit a Certificate Holder Forced and Child Labour Policies, Practices and Measures template, detailing the measures they have in place to mitigate the presence of forced or child labour. This must be submitted to the Conformity Assessment Body by 31 August 2019. If the deadline is not met, the fishery will not be eligible for certification and existing certificates will be suspended. This is the first stage of a phased approach where the MSC will introduce auditing and requirements, on a risk basis, for the exclusion of forced labour in MSC certified fisheries and supply chains.

More meaningful stakeholder input

In the current process, the first opportunity for stakeholders to provide input on a fishery’s scores is late in an assessment when the Public Comment Draft Report is published. In the updated process, an Announcement Comment Draft Report will be published at the same time as the fishery announces entry into MSC assessment, which will include draft scoring ranges and reference lists, with information gaps clearly highlighted. Stakeholders will have 60 days to input on this with a view to providing relevant and useful information to the assessment team before the site visit.

Harmonisation – a precautionary approach

There is an increase in the number of assessments of overlapping fisheries in the MSC program and harmonisation is a process for Conformity Assessment Bodies to align assessment outcomes for them. However, disagreement between assessment teams on scoring and rationales can cause delays. To address this the MSC has included a precautionary mechanism to help assessment teams reach agreement faster. This change now means that if assessment teams do not reach agreement following discussions, the lowest score will be adopted by all overlapping fisheries.

Early consultation phase in objections

The current objection procedure includes a consultation phase that encourages parties to discuss disagreements and possible resolutions before convening a formal hearing with an independent adjudicator. Given that approximately 40% of objections are resolved before a formal hearing is initiated it was concluded that the objection procedure may benefit from an earlier consultation phase between parties. In the updated process, the MSC has added a consultation phase earlier in the objection procedure to encourage parties to discuss disagreements and hopefully reach a resolution before lengthy written responses are drafted. 

See the full summary of changes (PDF, 3MB)