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Fisheries wanting to become certified are assessed against the MSC Fisheries Standard using assessment trees, the hierarchy of the principles, components, performance indicators and scoring guideposts.

This hierarchy is known as the default assessment tree, which is Annex SA in the MSC Fisheries Standard.

Although the default assessment tree works for most fisheries, it is hard to apply in some cases due to the way some species, including bivalves and salmon, are managed. For example, mussels may initially grow on natural banks before being grown on artificial structures, which are currently not specified in the default assessment tree.

To support the assessment of such species, our Standard includes three modified trees:

  • Section SB (Bivalves)
  • Section SC (Salmon)
  • Section SD (Introduced species)

How has our Standard changed?

In the new version of the Standard, we have improved readability across all three annexes – now known as ‘Sections’ - and have incorporated changes from the default tree where relevant. Interpretations recorded in the Interpretations Log have been incorporated into the sections. 

Clarifying eligibility criteria for introduced species

We have also clarified the scope criteria for determining whether introduced species-based fisheries are eligible for assessment against the MSC Fisheries Standard. Such fisheries will remain eligible for certification as long as there is no further introduction of the species to the environment. We have also removed the criterion that states species must be entirely self-sustaining in the new location. 

Section (previously annex) SD has been made a permanent part of the Standard, rather than a pilot. This section was introduced to our Standard as a pilot in 2011, which required all CABs wishing to assess introduced species-based fisheries to consult with the MSC on the proposed modifications to the default assessment tree. 

Furthermore, we have modified the clause that required modifications to Performance Indicator (PI) 1.1.1 to now include the term “if necessary”. Assessors will now need to determine if these modifications will be necessary for both PI 1.1.1 and PI 1.2.2.

Announcements for salmon fisheries with Inseparable or Practicably Inseparable (IPI) stocks

We have added a new requirement that CABs use the IPI Announcement Template to announce the assessment of salmon fisheries that include IPI stocks.

Fisheries Standard 3.0 implementation

Timelines have been extended for the implementation of MSC Fisheries Standard Version 3.
Fisheries Standard 3.0 implementation

Developing our Standard

In 2022, we published Version 3.0 of the MSC Fisheries Standard following the most comprehensive review to date

The development of the Standard follows public consultation on key aspects of the review, including a 60-day public review of the draft Standard and all associated documents. 

We also commissioned independent research and carried out data analysis and impact assessments to determine whether proposals are feasible and deliver our stated intentions. We also sought advice and input from our governance bodies throughout the process.  

Follow the links below to find out more about the different inputs which contributed to the development of our updated guidance on modified assessment trees:


Find out more about how we develop our Standards.

MSC Fisheries Standard version 3.0

MSC Fisheries Standard version 3.0

An overview of the changes made to our Standard.

Fisheries Program Documents

Fisheries Program Documents

The MSC Fisheries Standard and General Certification Requirements.