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The Fisheries Certification Process (FCP) is the instruction manual for Conformity Assessment Bodies (CABs). It defines the processes CABs must follow when assessing a fishery against the MSC Fisheries Standard.

We recently reviewed the Fisheries Certification Process alongside the review of the MSC Fisheries Standard

Alongside the new version of our Standard, two new Fisheries Certification Process versions (3.0 and 2.3) have been published and came into effect on 01 May 2023. Find out more about implementing the FCP. 

A new set of assessment templates has also been published with improved formatting and content to facilitate clearer and simpler assessment reports and announcements.

How has the Fisheries Certification Process changed?

FCP Version 3.0 incorporates changes to the Standard resulting from the Fisheries Standard Review as well as improvements to the assessment process.  This includes a wide range of new requirements and guidance, and clarifications to the language and structure of the Standard. FCP v3.0 also no longer contains the Risk Based Framework as this now sits in the MSC Fisheries Standard Toolbox.  

FCP Version 2.3 contains improvements to the assessment process but does not include changes to the Standard, and the Risk Based Framework remains in the FCP.

The changes to the existing assessment process, including new requirements for harmonisation activities, are detailed below.  These changes occur in both FCP versions 3.0 and 2.3.

Timing and coordination of harmonisation activities for overlapping fisheries

Overlapping fisheries - those that target the same stocks, operate within the same management frameworks and impact the same habitats and species - should receive consistent scores and conditions of certification. When overlapping fisheries are assessed, they must go through a harmonisation process to make sure scores and conditions have been consistently applied by assessors.

We have clarified requirements on the timing, duration and coordination of harmonisation, so that harmonisation should only occur once a year. Harmonisation should only be triggered more frequently if new information that would prompt an expedited audit becomes available. We have also created a new requirement for consideration of stakeholder feedback at the annual harmonisation event. The intent of harmonisation remains the same, as does the scope of what should be harmonised. 

We have also improved requirements to ensure assessors are clear on the process and have developed a database to help assessors identify overlapping scoring elements across fishery assessments.

These changes will ensure future harmonisation activities are managed more efficiently, avoiding continuous harmonisation cycles and reducing costs for fishery clients.

Clarifying and improving existing requirements and guidance

Revisions to traceability reporting

Assessments against MSC’s Chain of Custody Standard ensure that only products that come from an MSC certified fishery are eligible to be sold into the supply chain as MSC certified.  

Supply chain businesses must show that certified and non-certified products are segregated and be able to trace all MSC seafood back to other certified suppliers. In the same way, fisheries must have systems to track product movement, segregation and identification, to show how they confirm that fish being sold is from certified catches.

The fishery assessor now needs to include in their report how product is moved and tracked within the fishery, and how a buyer can confirm it is certified as it moves from the fishery into the supply chain. The traceability section of the fishery report will be completed or reviewed by a Chain of Custody auditor. 

This will improve the consistency of fishery traceability assessments and make product eligibility clearer for MSC certified supply chain businesses buying from MSC certified fisheries.

Revisions to existing certification processes

We have clarified how and when CABs should engage stakeholders in fishery assessments and surveillance audits. This includes additional guidance to clarify that any information used to score fisheries should be available to stakeholders so they can properly review the logic used by assessment teams.

We have also clarified and strengthened existing processes for CABs to follow when merging certified fisheries, withdrawing Units of Assessments or extending the scope of certificates to include additional fishers.

These changes will ensure that the processes set out in the FCP are applied consistently across different fishery assessments. This will improve the experience for fishery clients and stakeholders engaged in assessments, with clearer processes resulting in better informed, comprehensive assessments and certificate decisions.

Implementing the new Standard and FCP

FCP Version 2.3 must be used for all assessments against Version 2.01 of the Standard, superseding FCP v2.2 on 01 May 2023. 

Assessors must use FCP Version 3.0 when carrying out assessments against Version 3.0 of the Standard. 

A derogation was issued on 01 February 2024, which gives fisheries more time before they are required to use Version 3.0 of the Standard. 

  • New fisheries can now use Version 2.01 until 1 February 2026
  • Currently certified fisheries have until 1 November 2030 to transition to the updated Version 3.

Find out more about the derogation and the MSC's decision to revise the approach to implementing Version 3.0 of our Standard. 

Developing the Fisheries Certification Process

In 2022, we published Versions 3.0 and 2.3 of the MSC Fisheries Certification Process following a review. This accompanied the most comprehensive review of the MSC Fisheries Standard to date

The development of the FCP included a 60-day public review. We also commissioned independent research and carried out data analysis and impact assessments to determine whether proposals are feasible and deliver our stated intentions. We also sought advice and input from our governance bodies throughout the process.  

Follow the links below to find out more about the different inputs which contributed to the development of our new FCP:

Find out more about how we develop our Standards.

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