Clarifying requirements for modified assessment trees

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 our current Fisheries Standard.

Although the current assessment tree works for most fisheries, it is hard to apply in some cases. This is because of 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.

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

We want to make sure that the modified assessment trees for enhanced bivalves, salmon and introduced species reflect best practice and continue to meet the MSC intent for sustainable fishing.

We reviewed how Annexes SB – SD are implemented and identified areas for clarification. We will incorporate the existing interpretations, which can be found in the MSC Interpretations Log, for salmon and introduced species into the guidance for the Standard. This will address issues which have been noted by both the MSC and stakeholders.  

How could our standard change?

The proposed changes could lead to a change in requirements and guidance for the modified assessment tree annexes to the MSC Fisheries Standard

In January 2022, the MSC Board of Trustees reviewed the proposed revised MSC Fisheries Standard and agreed to launch a final public review of the proposed changes. The public review was open between 01 February and 04 April 2022.

Proposed revisions to our Standard

In the proposed revised Standard, we have improved readability across all three annexes and have incorporated changes from the default tree where relevant. interpretations recorded in the Interpretations log have been incorporated into the annexes. Language in the Standard has also been amended to refer to these Annexes as ‘Sections’. 

Clarification of MSC intent for ‘translocation’ of bivalves

We have added a statement to the guidance for Annex SB, which confirms that the MSC’s intent is that “translocation” refers to ‘any movement of seed to grow-out’.

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, and we are proposing to remove the criterion that the species must be entirely self-sustaining in the new location. 

Furthermore, we have proposed ending the pilot phase of Annex SD. This annex  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. 

Download the proposed revised MSC Fisheries Standard and Guidance below.

Please note that sections in the Standard marked in square brackets will be subject to further refinement through ongoing research and pilot testing with Conformity Assessment Bodies.

You can request a version of the requirements specific to this topic including tracked changes by emailing

Impact of proposed revisions

Clarifying the language used in the modified assessment trees will help ensure our Standard is applied more consistently.

The addition of new guidance to clarify the MSC’s intent on translocation will ensure more consistent assessments of enhanced bivalve fisheries. It will also lead to a better understanding of the fishery and the impacts of the translocated individuals on native populations.

Impact assessment reports

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.

MSC Fisheries Standard Review - Impact Assessment Report - Modified trees (Oct 2021)
Description: MSC Fisheries Standard Review - Impact Assessment Report - Modified assessment trees (Oct 2021)

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.

We commissioned an auditability review of the modified tree for salmon (Annex SC).

Find out more about how we develop our standards >

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