The Fisheries Standard Review

The MSC regularly carries out a formal review of the MSC Fisheries Standard to make sure our assessment and certification system remains the leading measure of fisheries sustainability.

The MSC Fisheries Standard is based on United Nations FAO guidelines for ecolabelling, and is reviewed after five years in line with the ISEAL Standard Setting Code of Best Practice

Through the review, we incorporate widely accepted new science and fisheries management best practice. We also make changes 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.

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 is happening when?

The Fisheries Standard Review started in 2018 and will run until 2022.

We have completed research into the topics identified in the Terms of Reference and held our first round of public consultations in 2020.

Developing options for revisions to our Standard

Our focus in 2021 will be to develop and refine preferred options for revisions to the Fisheries Standard. 

Options are developed following stakeholder consultations, independent research, data analysis and impact assessments. We use impact assessments to determine whether proposals are feasible and deliver our stated intentions. We publish reports on each of the impact assessments - please visit the relevant project webpage to download

The MSC Board of Trustees receives recommendations on proposed options for revisions from our Technical Advisory Board and Stakeholder Advisory Council. The Board will decide which options will be taken forward for each project.

We will have drafted a revised Standard by the end of 2021.

Public review of draft Standard

The draft Standard will be publicly reviewed in early 2022. We will work with stakeholders to ensure changes are clear and that the new Standard delivers the intentions of our program. 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.

Sign up to be notified of developments and upcoming events.


What areas of the Fisheries Standard could be revised?

At the start of the 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 16 distinct projects, listed below.


The scope of the review is outlined in the Terms of Reference. No changes outside of this 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.

Proposed options for revision

Options for revisions to our Standard have been developed for the following projects. Click the links for details, including published assessments of the potential positive and negative impacts of proposed changes. 

Revision options under development

We are currently developing options for revisions to our Standard for the following projects. They will be discussed by our governance bodies in mid-2021 - click the links for more about each project:


By the end of 2021, we will have developed options for proposed revisions to our Standard for all projects.


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.

There are currently no consultations open.

Public surveys were held for the following projects between May and July 2021, with each survey open for 30 days. Follow the links below to find out about each project.

Find out more about the consultations held in 2021.

Reviewing the draft Standard

The options for revisions to our Standard will be refined into a draft Standard by the end of 2021. 

There will be a 60-day public consultation of the draft Standard in early 2022. We will work with stakeholders 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.


Progress update on the MSC Fisheries Standard Review

On World Ocean Day, Tuesday 8 June 2021, we held two webinars across different time zones to update our stakeholders on the progress made in the Fisheries Standard Review.

Watch the webinar recordings on demand


Implementing the new Standard

Currently, it can take some fisheries up to nine and a half years to begin implementing a new version of the Standard. As part of the Review, we are investigating the feasibility of reducing this implementation time and ways to incentivise fisheries.

Long implementation times can lead to a situation where three different versions of the Standard are being applied across program and we want to prevent this from occurring.  

We consulted fishery certificate holders and conformity assessment bodies in August 2021 and the proposed revisions to this policy will be part of our public review in early 2022.

Read the consultation summary report. 

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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Working with mixed fisheries

Working with mixed fisheries

The MSC is working towards making the MSC program more accessible for mixed fisheries.

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Endangered, threatened and protected species

Endangered, threatened and protected species

The MSC ensures that certified fisheries allow the recovery of any Endangered, Threatened and Protected species.

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Ending shark finning

Ending shark finning

The MSC is committed to playing its part to help eliminate shark finning.

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Preventing lost and abandoned fishing gear (ghost fishing)

Preventing lost and abandoned fishing gear (ghost fishing)

The MSC is working towards reducing ghost fishing by rewarding best practice in gear management and supporting improving fisheries.

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Improving fisheries management

Improving fisheries management

The MSC seeks to reward best practice in fisheries management and to support fisheries that are working to improve their management systems.

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Minimising fishing impacts on ecosystems and habitats

Minimising fishing impacts on ecosystems and habitats

The MSC Fisheries Standard rewards fisheries that protect ecosystems and habitats in the places where they fish.

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Our approach to data-limited fisheries

Our approach to data-limited fisheries

The MSC is committed to supporting well-managed fisheries that do not have access to scientific data.

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Maintaining fish stocks

Maintaining fish stocks

Ensuring the sustainability of fish stocks is a core principle of the MSC Fisheries Standard.

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