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MSC publishes its updated Fisheries Certification Process

The new requirements provide greater assurance on shark finning and resolve concerns relating to the compartmentalisation of certified and non-certified catch.

The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) has today released its updated Fisheries Certification Process, which sets the eligibility criteria and process by which fisheries are independently assessed against the MSC Fisheries Standard.

The changes address concerns raised by stakeholders and follow more than 24 months’ consultation with industry and experts. 

Important changes approved by the MSC’s Board of Trustees on 6 February include:

Addressing concerns relating to compartmentalisation

Certified fisheries will no longer be able to target a stock using both certified and non-certified fishing practices with the same gear (known as compartmentalisation). This change resolves concerns relating to MSC certified purse seine tuna fisheries catching both certified free school tuna and non-certified tuna around fish aggregating devices (FADs). The MSC is already working with the tuna industry and scientists to support more sustainable use of FADs. 

Strengthening eligibility criteria on shark finning

Any company or organisation convicted for shark finning in the last two years will not be eligible for MSC certification.  Additionally, if there is evidence of shark finning, a fishery will face suspension unless the offending vessel is removed from the certificate. This strengthens the MSC’s commitment that certified fisheries are not engaged in shark finning but means that a whole fleet does not have to lose its MSC certification because of the actions of one member.

Requiring more information on how improvements are delivered by certified fisheries

Independent certifiers will now need to provide more detailed explanations of how a fishery has improved to meet conditions of certification. The MSC has also published a new conditions log, making it easier for everyone to review fisheries’ progress in delivering improvements required of certification.

Dr Rohan Currey, Chief Science and Standards Officer at the MSC said:
“These changes reflect feedback from a range of stakeholders including NGOs, fishing organisations and assessment bodies. They’re designed to ensure that the process followed by independent assessment teams is robust, effective and transparent. We’re grateful for all the contributions we’ve received to ensure that these changes address concerns and can be adopted by certified fisheries.”

The changes come into effect for all fishery assessments from 25 September 2020, with the exception of the changes relating to compartmentalisation which will apply from 25 March 2023 for already certified fisheries and assessments started before 25 September 2020. 

A full description of the updates to the Fisheries Certification Process version 2.2 is available within the Summary of Changes document published on

Further review of shark finning requirements

Shark finning is also being considered as part of the Fisheries Standard Review, which will consider the measures certified fisheries have in place to ensure that shark finning is not occurring. Part of the review will be an investigation into the adoption of Fins Naturally Attached policies by global management jurisdictions. 

The MSC Fishery Standard and certification process have been developed in consultation with hundreds of scientists, fisheries experts and other stakeholders, and are based on the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization’s guidelines for sustainable fishing and seafood ecolabelling.