Principle 2 of the MSC Fisheries Standard covers the effect a fishery has on the environment.
A key part of this principle is ensuring MSC certified fisheries do not cause irreversible harm to the structure and function of an ecosystem.
How has our Standard changed?
We have clarified our requirements and guidance to ensure that impacts on ecosystems are assessed more consistently. This will also provide greater transparency in assessment reports, making it easier for stakeholders to understand and contribute to the assessment process.
Clarifying language and definitions
We have added two new clauses to the Ecosystem component under Principle 2 to clarify and define how ecosystems and key ecosystem elements are identified during an assessment.
Assessors will now be required to explicitly identify and describe the assessed ecosystem. They must also identify and assess all key ecosystem elements which are impacted by the fishery. This will lead to a more targeted approach to evaluating a fishery’s impact and will ensure the assessor is only scoring a fishery on ecosystem elements that are likely to be affected.
We have updated our guidance to clarify which ecosystem elements should be considered in an assessment. This will ensure that aspects such as key prey, predators and competitors are clearly identified.
Updates to our Risk-Based Framework
We have updated the requirements and guidance of our Risk-Based Framework to ensure it continues to delivery precautionary and consistent assessments for data-limited fisheries. The Risk-Based Framework can be used by fisheries who lack comprehensive scientific data to assess their impacts on aspects such as stock populations, habitats and ecosystems.
New Evidence Requirements Framework
We have also developed the new Evidence Requirements Framework, a tool that will enable assessors to better evaluate the quality of information being used to certify a fishery. This includes evidence to demonstrate the impact of a fishery on an ecosystem.
Implementing the new Standard
Fisheries seeking certification for the first time will need to adhere to the new Standard from 01 May 2023.
Certified fisheries will 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.
However, we have also 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 (01 November 2028).
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. Find out more about how we develop our standards.
Follow the links below to find out more about the different inputs which contributed to the development of our requirements and guidance for the assessment of ecosystems:
- Impact Assessment Report - Ensuring ecosystem performance indicators are clear and consistently applied (April 2021)
- Impact assessment report - Ecosystems (Oct 2021)
- An analysis of the application of Performance Indicators 2.5.1, 2.5.2 and 2.5.3 in assessments for different fisheries – a report to the MSC, Blyth-Skyrme R (2016)
- Support to develop the MSC ecosystem component – ecosystem impacts, indicators and best practice review, Coll M (2019)
- Consultation summary report – Proposed revised MSC Fisheries Standard (May 2022)