Press release

MSC confirms topics to be included in its Fisheries Standard Review

January 24, 2019

Topics for review include ghost gear, low tropic level species and ETP species

The Board of Trustees for the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) has confirmed the list of 16 topics that will be reviewed in the next stage of its Fisheries Standard Review

The list incorporates feedback received from numerous stakeholders and includes consideration of the MSC’s requirements for ghost gear, low trophic species, shark finning and endangered threatened and protected (ETP) species. It also covers topics relating to the accessibility of the MSC program to small scale, squid, crab and octopus fisheries.

“The next stage in the MSC Fisheries Standard Review will be an in-depth analysis of all topics agreed for review,” said Rupert Howes, Chief Executive Officer at the MSC. “Over the next year, the MSC will work alongside stakeholders to harness their expertise and experience to identify potential updates to the Standard. This is an opportunity for stakeholders to inform the future development of the Standard. We encourage anyone with knowledge or an interest in these areas to get in touch.” 

The Fisheries Standard Review 

The Fisheries Standard Review, conducted every five years, aims to ensure that the MSC Fisheries Standard continues to represent widely accepted international best practice in sustainable fisheries science and management, reduce complexity and barriers for new fisheries and review issues that impede effective application or interpretation of the Standard. 

The topics identified in this review have been collected since the end of the last review in 2013. These topics will now be taken forward for targeted expert consultations, allowing stakeholders the opportunity to get involved in developing the MSC Standard. Any potential revisions to the MSC Fisheries Standard as a result of this review will be widely consulted on in 2019 and 2020. The final decision on any revisions to the Standard will be made by the MSC Board of Trustees, guided by the MSC’s policy on the adoption of new science, and following recommendation from the MSC’s Technical Advisory Board and Stakeholder Advisory Council, with release planned for 2021.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation’s (UN FAO) guidelines for seafood ecolabelling require standards setters to regularly review and, if necessary, update their standards. The MSC Fisheries Standard Review process will be overseen by the MSC’s independent Technical Advisory Board. Any resulting changes to the standard will be independently reviewed and benchmarked by the Global Sustainable Seafood Initiative (GSSI) for compliance with UN FAO guidelines.  It will also be assessed by ISEAL, the global membership association for credible sustainability standards, to ensure that it complies with their standard setting code of good practice.

The areas for review are divided into three sections: efficiency, effectiveness and evolution. 

Standard efficiency:

A review of the structure of the MSC Fisheries Standard identifying redundancy or overlap in the scoring system, along with ways to reduce complexity and improve its compatibility with new digital tools. 

Standard effectiveness:

A review of the application of the Standard by assessors, with a particular focus on consistency of outcomes and implementation. Topics for review include the assessment of ghost gear, fisheries with highly fluctuating stocks (known as yoyo fisheries), fisheries targeting low trophic level species, shark finning, enhanced bivalves, salmon fisheries, introduced species and accessibility to the MSC program via the Risk Based Framework. 

Standard evolution:

A review of where the MSC Fisheries Standard sets performance levels for sustainability. In this section, the effectiveness of the Standard in setting requirements which encourage fisheries to mitigate impacts on endangered, threatened and protected species will be looked at, including their designation, management by governments worldwide, and intentional harassment or killing of marine mammals. Governance, including illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, and evidence requirements will also be reviewed. Finally, the appropriateness of the Standard for assessing the sustainability of squid, crab and octopus will be considered. 

A full list of topics for review can be found at msc.org/fsr.  

Anyone with an interest in the topics included in the Fisheries Standard Review, including information for consideration by the MSC, should register an interest by emailing standards@msc.org

Additional public consultation on shark finning

In addition to the topics to be included in the MSC Fisheries Standard Review, the MSC Board has approved topics for more immediate public consultation as part of the MSC’s ongoing review of its Fisheries Certification Process. These include a consultation on shark finning as part of the MSC’s scope requirements in early March 2019, concluding in early 2020. Information on other consultations taking place in 2019 will be available shortly at improvements.msc.org
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