Clarifying best practice for reducing impacts on endangered species (ETP)

Ensuring MSC certified fisheries do not prevent the recovery of endangered, threatened and protected species is vital to achieving our mission of safeguarding ocean health.

Improving our standard

Most of the MSC Fisheries Standard requirements relating to endangered, threatened and protected (ETP) species were last updated in 2008. Since then, stakeholders have expressed concern that a lack of clear definitions on ETP interactions has led to ambiguity in the interpretation of scoring for the requirements.  

Current methods of categorising what constitutes an ETP species has also been raised as a barrier to consistent assessment of fisheries. Stakeholders have noted inconsistencies caused by the use of varying red lists of vulnerable species in the MSC Standard. These lists often vary from country to country, having different criteria and quality of data for their ratings. 

We also want to ensure sensitive populations are consistently assigned as endangered, threatened or protected so certified fisheries can allow these species to recover and thrive. To do this we may streamline ETP species designation and assessment, while also ensuring requirements reflect widely accepted and adopted science and management best practices. We also want to incentivise consistent data collection on interactions and mitigation methods used by fisheries. This will help to accurately monitor impacts on ETP species.


How could the standard change?

This review could change the scope, intent and requirements of the MSC Fisheries Standard. We do not intend to change how fishery impacts are assessed, but do want to clarify the requirements around protecting endangered, threatened and protected species.  

We may need to update the scope of what is eligible to assess, for example which species to consider under the ETP requirements. 

The ‘intent’ explains the sustainability objective we are trying to achieve with the ETP requirements. Making our intentions clearer may make it a little harder for some fisheries to meet the requirements in our Standard, but it will also be easier for them to see what improvements they need to make to remain sustainable. This could mean, for example, more specific requirements to collect independent information to more accurately monitor and reduce impact on a population. This would ensure we are providing appropriate requirements to achieve our sustainability outcomes for ETP species. 

All changes will be drafted to provide clarity on ETP requirements. Policy development and impact testing will also be used to ensure changes are both practical and auditable.


Progress so far

Stakeholder consultations

In June 2020 we held three virtual workshops on the topic of 'Clarifying best practice for reducing impacts on endangered, threatened and protected (ETP) species'. Participants could also provide input through an online survey.

We also held a series of workshops on the topic of ‘Introducing requirements on the type and quality of evidence needed for scoring fisheries, which also discussed ETP species.

We have published a consultation summary report, which includes transcripts from the workshops and survey feedback and a descriptive analysis of attendees. Commercially sensitive and personal details have been redacted. Please note that the report does not contain details of policy direction

View the summary report from the June 2020 consultations on 'Clarifying best practice for reducing impacts on endangered, threatened and protected species'.

Gathering evidence to improve the Standard

In 2019, we held a global expert workshop to collect information and explore how our Standards could further help mitigate the threat of fishing to ETP species. We are now using expert input and guidance to evaluate how our requirements on ETP species can be applied consistently across MSC certified fisheries around the world.  

We have reviewed the previous scoring of ETP requirements to understand how ETP are currently being designated and scored against our Standards. We have also reviewed widely accepted best practice in protecting ETP populations, considering for example National Plans of Action (NPOAs) for managing seabirds. The findings from the NPOA review were published in July 2020.

Additionally, we are reviewing scientific evidence, assessing new gear technology and looking at fisheries showing leadership in this area to see whether these developments should be made global requirements in the MSC Fisheries Standard. As a result, we have defined a series of questions and proposals to help us consult our stakeholders and explore the best policy options.

Next steps

We are currently reviewing all feedback received from the consultation workshops and survey as well as independent research and our own internal data analysis. This will inform our decisions on proposed changes to the MSC Fisheries Standard.

We will carry out an impact assessment on the proposed changes considering, among other things, the feasibility for fisheries to make the changes and the impact on the accessibility of the MSC program to existing and prospective fisheries. We will also seek the advice of our governance bodies on the proposed changes. 

Find out more about the next steps in the Fisheries Standard Review.


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