The Fisheries Standard Review

Every five years the MSC initiates a Fisheries Standard Review (FSR).

The FSR is an opportunity to improve the Fisheries Standard by addressing issues raised by stakeholders and by our own monitoring and evaluation processes, and to incorporate widely accepted new science or fisheries management best practice.

The latest review started in 2018 and will run until 2021. Stakeholder input is an important part of policy development and there will be many opportunities for you to participate in the FSR.


What is the aim of the FSR?

The FSR aims to:

  • Incorporate improved and generally accepted global scientific understanding and fishery management practice into the Fisheries Standard
  • Enhance program credibility and legitimacy by reviewing issues identified in previous versions of the Standard or fisheries assessment process
  • Improve fisheries data collection to enable rigorous monitoring and evaluation
  • Increase standard applicability and accessibility including for fisheries in the global south
  • Reduce standard complexity to reduce barriers for new fisheries

What is being reviewed?

The objectives above will initially be focussed in three areas:

Standard efficiency

Achieving sustainability outcomes with simpler Standard.

A review of the structure of the Fisheries Standard, including, for example, the identification of any redundant or overlapping indicators, reducing complexity and ensuring the Standard is compatible with new digital tools.  

Standard effectiveness

Achieve sustainability outcomes more consistently across fisheries. 

A review of how the Standard is applied by assessors, to ensure consistency. This will also involve reviewing existing tools for assessing data limited fisheries, such as the MSC’s risk-based framework, and supporting the development of new tools. 

Standard evolution

Achieve sustainable outcomes by ensuring the bar is set at an appropriate level. 

Topics identified for review currently include:

  • Endangered, threatened and protected species
  • Ecosystems, with a focus on trophic levels
  • Defining primary species and investigating issues around majority of catch
  • Governance (Principle 3) including illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing
  • Whether the Standard is appropriate for selected target species (e.g. squid and octopus)

Topics for review

The PDF below outlines all the topics prioritised for review. 

To learn more about any of these topics and contribute to their review, visit the FSR pages on our Program Improvements site       

Fisheries Standard Review: List of topics 2019
Description: The full list of topics prioritised for review as part of the 2018-2021 MSC Fisheries Standard Review.

Date of Issue: 22 January 2019
The FSR Terms of Reference provides a detailed overview of the review and possible revision of the Standard.
Fisheries Standard Review - Terms of Reference
Description: This provides an overview of the process for review and possible revision of the MSC Fisheries Standard including its default and modified trees and associated certification requirements.

Date of Issue: 25 September 2018

How were these focus areas identified for review?

Topics for review have been collected since the end of the last FSR (2013) through multiple channels including:

  • Issues identified through the MSC’s policy development process and issue log
  • Stakeholder raised issues (e.g. through letters)
  • Program monitoring and evaluation
  • Assessment and surveillance audit results
  • Scientific literature
  • Current interpretations of the Standard
  • Objection findings
  • ASI findings
  • Expert findings (e.g. international expert working groups on fishery issues)

The MSC Board of Trustees made the final decision on topics for inclusion in the review. Their consideration included the relevance and effectiveness of the current Standard and whether there was sufficient evidence to show a need for a review of any topic.

The MSC’s Technical Advisory Board and Stakeholder Advisory Council also reviewed the Terms of Reference to ensure the Board was well informed when they made the final decision on the scope of the review. 

As part of the review process further evaluation work will be conducted on the operation of the program to understand if there are opportunities improve the relevance and effectiveness of the Standard.

Get involved with the FSR

Your expertise and insights are important to ensure the best outcomes of the FSR.

Sign up to register your interest in the FSR and to be notified when public consultation opens. 


What will happen during the FSR?

The FSR has two stages: review and revision.  


January 2018 - January 2020


February 2020 - August 2021 


The FSR is currently in the review stage. During the review stage, the MSC investigates issues, commissions scientific research and consults with stakeholders and technical experts as well as the MSC Technical Advisory Board and Stakeholder Advisory Council.


In January 2020, once the review is complete, the MSC Board of Trustees will decide whether any part of the Standard needs to be revised. If yes, then we will start the revision phase. 


The revision phase will include targeted and public stakeholder consultation throughout 2020. 

This consultation period will focus on options for revising the Standard, in line with the Board’s decision. This could include options for changes related to individual topics, or for cross-cutting Standard changes.


The revision phase will also include public consultation on the full, revised Standard in 2021.  

The review and revision process must include all interested parties and balance the diverse needs and views of many different organisations. Impact testing forms an important part of this process.  

The MSC Board of Trustees will make the final decision on any proposed changes to the Fisheries Standard, in accordance with the MSC Standard Setting Procedure.


To make sure fisheries can adapt to changes they must be given time. The MSC is committed to the FAOecolabeling guidelines. These state that fisheries are given at least three years to adapt to changes to the Standard.

Raising new issues

The Fisheries Standard Review: List of topics 2019 contain all topics currently selected for review. To learn more about any of these topics and contribute to their review, visit the FSR pages on our Program Improvements site.       

You can suggest new issues by emailing These will be considered as part of the MSC's ongoing policy development process and may be addressed as part of this FSR or through another mechanism as appropriate. 

Find out more about how you can participate in our policy development process.


Questions? Contact us


Dr Emily McGregor

Senior Fisheries Program Review Manager

Email Emily
Portrait photo of Dr Rohan Currey, Chief Science & Standards Officer at the MSC

Dr Rohan Currey

Fisheries Standard Director

Email Rohan

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Developing our Standards

Because industry practices and scientific understanding evolve, we review our Standards every few years. You can get involved in the development.

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Our current research

The MSC collaborates with leading research groups. Find out about our current research projects.

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