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 lists of ETP 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. 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. 

Policy development and impact testing will also be used to ensure changes are both practical and auditable.

Proposed revisions to our Standard

We have developed policy options proposing changes to the Fisheries Standard following stakeholder consultations, desk-based research and impact assessments. 

The policy options were presented to the MSC’s Technical Advisory Board and Stakeholder Advisory Council  who provided advice and made recommendations to the Board of Trustees.

In May 2021, the Board of Trustees made a decision as to which policies will be taken forward in the review. 

Our proposed revisions focus on:

Developing new requirements for designating ETP species

  • Including new requirements for designating out-of-scope species (mammals, birds, amphibians and reptiles), and in-scope species (fish and invertebrates) as ETP. This would ensure designation is more consistent. 
  • The new requirements will also change how species that are within the scope of the program - fish and invertebrates – are designated as ETP. We intend to use international and/or national species listings to ensure designation is based on objective, scientific criteria.  

New and revised requirements and definitions to clarify ETP scoring

  • To ensure ETP species are assessed consistently and more effectively, and that our requirements are aligned with best practice management. This may lead to changes in requirement language and definitions. 
  • Through these revisions we intend to make the assessment of ETP species more objective and strengthen the consideration of cumulative impacts of multiple MSC certified fisheries on the recovery of ETP species. We will clarify how assessors should consider a fishery’s compliance with national and international ETP regulations. We also want to make sure it is clear how the indirect effects of a fishery on ETP species should be considered and improve the way unobserved mortality is assessed.  

Stakeholders provided feedback on the proposed revisions throughout June and July 2021Find out more about the consultations.

Find out about the next steps in the Review.

Links with other projects in the Review

To ensure ETP species are scored more consistently, we need to make sure fishery assessments are based on a robust and consistent standard of information.

This will be achieved through a separate project in the review - ‘Ensuring effective fisheries management systems are in place’, where we are proposing the introduction of an evidence requirements framework. This would provide assessors with a consistent and systematic approach to judging the quality of information provided by a fishery.


Progress so far

Stakeholder consultations


We held a public consultation on the proposed revisions to our Standard in June and July 2021. Stakeholders provided feedback through an online survey, which was available on our website for 30 days. 

Download the consultation document below to find out more about the proposed revisions and focus of the survey. 


MSC Fisheries Standard Review ETP species - Consultation support document - June 2021
Description: Consultation document to support the MSC Fisheries Standard Review 2021 consultation survey on 'Clarifying requirements for endangered, threatened and protected species'.

Language: English
Date of issue: 29 June 2021

Consultation summary report

We have published a summary report from the 2021 public consultation, which contains an overview of the project, feedback received and a descriptive analysis of the participating stakeholder groups.

Download the summary report below from the 2021 consultation on 'Clarifying best practice for reducing impacts on endangered, threatened and protected species'.
MSC Fisheries Standard Review - ETP consultation summary report - July 2021
Description: Summary report from MSC Fisheries Standard Review public consultation on 'Clarifying best practice to reduce impacts on endangered, threatened and protected species' (July 2021)

Language: English
Date of issue: 19 August 2021


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

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

MSC Fisheries Standard Review consultation summary report (October 2020) - Clarifying best practice for reducing impacts on endangered, threatened and protected species
Description: MSC Fisheries Standard Review consultation summary report (October 2020) - Clarifying best practice for reducing impacts on endangered, threatened and protected (ETP) species

Language: English
Date of issue: 29 October 2020


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.

We are also looking at ways to better prevent the intentional killing or intentional harassment of marine mammals, and have commissioned independent research into global best practice, existing laws and fisheries management policies around this.

MSC Fisheries Standard Review - Global review on intentional harassment of marine mammals
Description: Independent consultant's report for the MSC Fisheries Standard Review: 'Review on global, commercial, wild-capture fisheries intentionally harassing or killing marine mammals', Fortuna CM (2019)

Language: English
Date of issue: 19 October 2021
MSC Fisheries Standard Review - Identifying Out of Scope Fisheries
Description: Independent consultant's report for the MSC Fisheries Standard Review: 'Marine Stewardship Council and the Fisheries Standard Review: Identifying out of scope fisheries' (2021)

Language: English
Date of issue: 19 October 2021

Next steps

We will analyse the data gathered from the consultation and carry out pilot tests of proposed revisions to make sure they achieve the expected outcomes and can be effectively audited during a fishery assessment.  

By the end of 2021, we will have developed options for all projects in the review and will have drafted a revised Standard, which will be reviewed by our Technical Advisory Board, Stakeholder Advisory Council and Board of Trustees.

Review of proposed changes

In early 2022, stakeholders will have an opportunity to review all proposed changes before any final decision to revise the Standard is made.

The new Standard will be released later in 2022 following approval from our Board.

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