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 will engage with stakeholders throughout 2021 to keep them informed of developments in the Fisheries Standard Review and opportunities to provide feedback on proposed revisions to the Standard.

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

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. 

What is happening when?

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 held our first round of public consultations in 2020.

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.

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

Sign up to be notified of developments and upcoming events.

Developing options for revisions

In early 2021, the MSC Board of Trustees will receive 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.

These options will then be refined through further impact assessment, and stakeholder consultation and engagement if required. 

Some projects require additional time to develop options and will be considered by our governance bodies later in 2021.

A timetable for when options for each project will be considered can be found below:

January 2021

March 2021


Public review of proposed revised standard

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.

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 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



Find out more

A small boat on the beach in Mexico

Working with mixed fisheries

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

Find out more
Baby turtle on beach moving towards the water

Endangered, threatened and protected species

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

Find out more
A shark fin rising out of the water

Ending shark finning

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

Find out more
A pile of tangled fishing gear

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.

Find out more
A row of boats in the harbour, the clouds reflect on the water

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.

Find out more
Red and grey hard corals growing on the bottom of the ocean, a diver's light shining on them

Minimising fishing impacts on ecosystems and habitats

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

Find out more
Data-limited fisheries spotlight FINAL- for CMS

Our approach to data-limited fisheries

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

Find out more
A fishing net hanging over the water

Maintaining fish stocks

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

Find out more
  • '{{item.Image.Title}}', {{item.Image.Artist}}, {{item.Image.Description}}