Clarifying assessment of dynamic fisheries

Dynamic fisheries target species whose population size can vary greatly over time and with changing environmental conditions.

The MSC Fisheries Standard requires that harvest strategies are robust and precautionary and take into account the variability and uncertainty of dynamic fish stocks.  

Improving our standard

The inherent variability of stock sizes, also known as 'yo-yo' tendencies, means that some fisheries may experience changes to their certification status throughout the five-year lifespan of a certificate. These status can lead to uncertainty for fisheries.  

Through the Fisheries Standard review, we aim to identify the risks in maintaining certification for fisheries experiencing fluctuations in stock size. We will also aim to establish whether there is benefit in using historical reference points, such as historical biomass trends to assess stock sustainability, and whether dynamic or static reference points are more effective. 

We aim to develop new guidance that will help to clarify the intent of the MSC Fisheries Standard for dynamic fish stocks, including the assessment of short-lived, environmentally-driven species such as crab, squid and octopus.

We also aim to assess the use of proxy methods, such as fishery mortality for short-lived species to demonstrate that their stock status is at a level consistent with maximum sustainable yield (MSY). This is defined as the largest catch that can be taken from a fish stock each year without causing long-term depletion of their future population size.


Progress so far

We have reviewed fishery assessments to identify the prevalence of fisheries with 'yo-yo' tendencies and investigated the causes behind their change in certification status. We have also reviewed how the MSC Standard is applied in relation to squid and octopus fisheries.

We have also carried out two global stakeholder workshops to help identify areas where the MSC Standard could be improved. 


How could the standard change?

The changes could lead to new guidance for the MSC Fisheries Standard, aiming to make the Standard more accessible to fisheries harvesting dynamic stocks. It is not anticipated that new requirements or bespoke assessment trees will need development.

The proposed changes could include guidance on how to use proxy indicators and reference points for scoring in Principle 1 of the MSC Standard. Guidance could also be provided for how to assess trends in fishery mortality and harvest control rules for dynamic stocks.

Get involved

Stakeholders are at the heart of our Fisheries Standard Review, helping identify issues, develop solutions and test the possible impacts of any proposed changes. We are holding a series of stakeholder consultation events in 2020 and 2021 including virtual workshops and online surveys.

The following consultations related to this project are currently open:

Feasibility of Principle 1 changes for existing requirements
- Virtual workshop  10:00 - 13:00 AEST/ 00:01 - 03:00 UTC 9 July 2020 

Register your interest in taking part

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