The Fisheries Standard Review

Every five years the MSC initiates a Fisheries Standard Review (FSR) to help us ensure our assessment and certification system remains the leading measure of fisheries sustainability.

The MSC Fisheries Standard is the leading international standard for sustainable fishing and is based on United Nations FAO guidelines for ecolabelling. Over 17% of marine wild catch is engaged with the MSC program. 

Every five years we review the Fisheries Standard to incorporate widely accepted new science and fisheries management best practice. We also do this to improve its implementation and address stakeholder concerns.

Stakeholders from all sectors are at the heart of our review, helping identify issues, develop solutions and test proposed changes. See how you can get involved below.


What are the objectives of this review?

  1. To include better scientific understanding and fishery management practices in the Standard. 
  2. To make the Standard clearer for those using it in fishery assessments.
  3. To make the Standard less complex and remove barriers to fisheries joining and staying in the program.
  4. To make the Standard more accessible to fisheries in the Global South, and make it more applicable to high priority species and ecosystems.
  5. To improve data collection and evidence-based decision-making.

Full details are given in the Fisheries Standard Review Terms of Reference.

What areas of the Fisheries Standard could be revised?

At the start of the Fisheries Standard Review we looked at all areas of the Standard highlighted by stakeholders or our own policy processes as potentially needing revisions. This includes making the way our Standard is written easier to understand.

Potential changes have been grouped into the following projects. No changes outside of the Terms of Reference will be included in this Review.


Each project clearly sets out whether it has the potential to change the intention or requirements of our Standards. Some may only add new guidance to make sure assessments are more consistent and the intentions of our three principles are achieved by certified fisheries.

Revisions to the Standard will only be made if the MSC Board of Trustees consider improved scientific understanding or fishery management best practice to be sufficiently widespread or accepted to justify a change. Any changes proposed should also deliver the objectives of the Review.


How to get involved in reviewing the Fisheries Standard

Stakeholders are at the heart of our Fisheries Standard Review, helping identify issues, develop solutions and test the possible impacts of any proposed changes.

Currently, there are no open consultation opportunities.

We held 11 virtual workshops and four surveys between June and August 2020 to seek input from stakeholders including but not limited to eNGOs, marine scientists, fisheries managers and assessors. Due to the global pandemic, all consultations in 2020 were held online. You can find out more about how we adapted our program in the face of the pandemic to ensure stakeholders remained at the heart of policy development.

We have published summary reports from each of the consultations held in 2020. You can read the summary reports and find out more about consultations on the review of the Fisheries Standard. 

We will hold further consultations in 2021 and the revised Standard will be publicly reviewed in early 2022 to ensure changes are clear and that the new Standard delivers the intentions of our program.

You can sign up to be notified of upcoming consultation activities.

What is happening when?

The MSC Board of Trustees agreed to a six-month extension of the Fisheries Standard Review in September 2020, to allow for additional input from stakeholders to resolve issues currently under review. 

The current Review started in 2018 and will run until 2022. We have completed research into the topics identified in the Terms of Reference, and are now moving on to developing preferred options for revisions.

The focus in 2020 and 2021 will be on agreeing what the Standard is trying to achieve in any specific area where changes could be made. We will consult stakeholders to develop options for how the Standard should be revised.

If a revised Standard is proposed, the focus in 2022 will be on reviewing the new document. We will work with stakeholders to ensure changes are clear  and that the new Standard delivers the intentions of our program.

Sign up to be notified of developments and upcoming events.

Timeline for the Fisheries Standard Review

13 May 2020

The Fisheries Standard Review virtual conference - view on demand

June - August 2020Open consultations to develop preferred options for how the Standard should be revised
2021Open consultations to develop preferred options for how the Standard should be revised
2022Public review of the final draft Standard
 Release date of any new Standard, if approved by the board.
 Fisheries joining the program must use the new Standard.
2024Last MSC certificate issued under Fisheries Standard v1.3 expires: all current certificates assessed under Fisheries Standard 2.0 or later.
2025Certified Fisheries must use the new Standard in future reassessments.
2030All (re)assessments now under new Standard.
2035Closed conditions mean all certified fisheries have adopted the best practice of the new Standard for all performance indicators.

When would changes to the Standard happen?

The MSC Board of Trustees will make the final decision on implementation of any changes. If changes are confirmed, the revised Standard will be released in 2022.

Fisheries seeking certification for the first time will need to adhere to any new Standard six months after it is released. For certified fisheries there is a 3-year is a grace period set by the FAO before a new Standard applies in any assessment. And there is no requirement for them to have an assessment before their existing 5-year certificate expires.

Questions and raising new issues

While it is too late to add issues to the current review, you can suggest new issues that will be considered as part of the MSC's ongoing policy development process and could form part of the next review. Find out more about how you can participate in our policy development process.

For further details about our current Fisheries Standard Review, or copies of reports from past public consultations, please email



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