Making the MSC Fisheries Standard more efficient

The MSC Fisheries Standard is used to assess if a fishery is well-managed and sustainable.

New MSC Fisheries Standard approved

In June 2022, the MSC Board of Trustees approved the new  MSC Fisheries Standard (version 3.0).

This decision followed the most comprehensive review of the MSC Fisheries Standard ever undertaken in the 25-year history of the MSC.

Our new Standard includes significant improvements, including better protections for marine life, as well as stronger fisheries management and compliance requirements. These improvements will ensure that MSC certified fisheries continue to be recognised as world leaders in sustainability.

Read our recent Board statement to find out more

This webpage will be updated to reflect the final requirements by October 2022, when the new Standard is published. Please note that the requirements for this project have not changed significantly from those proposed in the draft Standard.

Implementing the new Standard

We intend to publish the new MSC Fisheries Standard (version 3.0) from October 2022.
Fisheries seeking certification for the first time will need to adhere to the new Standard from May 2023.

We have introduced a new policy that requires all certificate holders to have completed reassessment to the MSC Fisheries Standard version 3.0 within six years of it being published (October 2028).

Read more about our new transition timelines for certified fisheries

Improving our standard

The MSC Fisheries Standard has a complex structure and scoring system. This can lead to costly and lengthy assessments, as well as inconsistencies in application of our Standard in assessments.

We want to simplify our Standard and make sure language is clear and easily understood by all stakeholders. We also want to reduce redundancy in the Standard and reduce duplication in Principle 2 performance indicators. This will mean our Standard can be applied more efficiently. It will also help to reduce the barriers for new fisheries seeking certification and help certified fisheries stay in the program more easily.

 

How could the standard change?

The changes proposed could lead to a change in requirements and guidance of the MSC Fisheries Standard. They will not impact the intent, rigour or thresholds of the Standard.

In January 2022, the MSC Board of Trustees approved the proposed Standard for a final period of public review, which was open between 01 February and 04 April 2022.

 

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Introducing the proposed revisions: Standard Efficiency

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Proposed revisions to the Standard

Clarifying language and reducing duplication

In the proposed revised Standard, we have clarified the language used in Principle 2 and removed duplication within its Performance Indicators. This includes ensuring that scoring issues only address one question at each scoring guidepost, and the removal of redundant and ambiguous language. As a result, we have removed 15 scoring issues across Principle 2.

We have also minimised cross-referencing to definitions and guidance by both clarifying language and providing links to our guidance documents. 

Clarification of definitions

To make sure assessments are more accurate and efficient, we will clarify the definitions of the following management terms used within Principle 2 of our Standard: 

  • ‘Measures’
  • ‘Partial Strategy’ 
  • ‘Strategy’

The meaning and intent of these terms will not change, however we will provide a table of definitions that consolidates current requirements and guidance on the scale and scope of these terms. This will make it easier for fisheries and assessors to understand the meaning of each term, and the differences between them.

Simplify groupings of Principle 2 species

To complement proposed new requirements for endangered, threatened or protected species and out of scope species, the assessment of all other fish and invertebrates not targeted by the fishery will now be assessed under a single component, called In-scope species.

Currently, species that are scored under Principle 2 of our Standard are grouped into several categories including ‘main’ and ‘minor’, and ‘managed’ and ‘unmanaged’. However, these categories are not commonly used to categorise species outside of the MSC, which can lead to confusion for stakeholders and adds complexity for assessors.

Download the revised Standard to view all proposed changes relating to ‘Making our Standard more efficient’. 

Impact of proposed revisions

The proposed changes will enable Conformity Assessment Bodies to carry out assessments more efficiently and lead to more consistent outcomes. The intent of the Standard will not change.

Simplifying the language used and removing ambiguous terms will also support stakeholders in developing a better understanding of the Standard. This will make it clearer for fisheries to know how to meet the Standard and make improvements if conditions of certification are set. It will also make it easier for stakeholders, such as NGOs, to contribute to a fishery assessment.

Impact assessment report

We carry out impact assessments to understand the positive and negative consequences of our proposed policies, enabling us to judge which policies will be the most effective in solving the identified issues. We consider factors such as the feasibility of changes for fisheries, and whether any changes impact the accessibility of our program, or retention of certified fisheries in the MSC program. We also look at whether proposed changes can be effectively audited by assessors.

Read our impact assessment report on the proposed policies to make our Standard more efficient.

MSC Fisheries Standard Review - Impact Assessment Report - Making our Standard more efficient - (Nov 21)
Description: MSC Fisheries Standard Review - Impact Assessment Report - Making our Standard more efficient - (Nov 21)

Language: English
Date of issue: 01 February 2022

Next steps

We intend to publish the new MSC Fisheries Standard (version 3.0) in October 2022.

Implementation timeframes

Fisheries seeking certification for the first time will need to adhere to the new Standard from May 2023.

We have introduced a new policy that requires all certificate holders to have completed reassessment to the MSC Fisheries Standard version 3.0 within six years of it being published (October 2028).

Certified fisheries will still have at least three years before they are required to begin the transition to the new Standard. This is in compliance with the UN FAO Best Practice Guidelines for Ecolabelling.

Please note, the publication date of version 3.0 (and therefore the effective date, and deadline for recertification) may be subject to change.

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Developing our policies

The development of the proposed Standard follows two rounds of public consultation on key aspects of the review, independent research, data analysis and impact assessments to determine whether proposals are feasible and deliver our stated intentions. We have also sought advice and input from our governance bodies throughout the process.

Find out more about how we develop our standard > 

Find out more about the different inputs which contributed to the development of our proposed policies on 'Making our Standard more efficient' below.

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