Ensuring effective fisheries management systems are in place

The MSC seeks to reward best practice in fisheries management and support fisheries that are working to improve their management systems.

Principle 3 of the MSC Fisheries Standard relates to systems and policies for effective fisheries management. It states that fisheries must be well governed and have adequate monitoring and enforcement systems in place.

Improving our Standard

We want to ensure that our requirements for fisheries management continue to align with the latest in global best practice, and that they are clear and consistently applied. Our policy development process has resulted in the following areas for potential improvement being identified. 

Introduce new evidence requirements on the quality of information needed for scoring fisheries

To be certified as well-managed and sustainable a fishery must have an effective monitoring system in place. This is necessary to provide fishery managers with the information needed to assess fish stocks and manage a fishery’s impact on the environment. A strong information base also allows assessors to evaluate a fishery’s impacts when it is being assessed for certification. A well-designed monitoring system should collect high quality information on a fishery’s activities, such as what it catches, how long it fishes for, where it operates and whether it is compliant with management rules. 

We want to introduce a new framework that enables assessors to evaluate the quality of information that has been collected by a fishery’s monitoring system. This includes the type and extent of information collected on fishing activities, as well as how that information has been reported and provided to the assessment team. This framework would make it easier for assessors to evaluate a fishery’s monitoring system in a systematic way, and to report their findings consistently and transparently as part of the certification process.

Update best practice in the requirements for monitoring, control and surveillance

Principle 3 of the MSC Fisheries Standards requires fisheries to comply with all relevant local, regional and international legislation. We want to ensure that this is assessed rigorously and consistently across all fisheries.

How could the Standard change?

The proposed revisions would be a change in intent of the MSC Fisheries Standard. This is because they strengthen the quality of the evidence required to assess fisheries.

We have developed options for revisions to our Standard for two components of this project following stakeholder consultations and impact assessments. Those components include:

1) Introducing new evidence requirements on the quality of information needed for scoring fisheries

2) Establishing best practice in monitoring, control and surveillance


Introducing new evidence requirements on the quality of information needed for scoring fisheries

Our proposals have been revised since we shared the draft Standard in February 2022.

In January 2022 the Board of Trustees requested that the Technical Advisory Board (TAB) form a working group to support the MSC Executive in further developing the Evidence Requirement Framework’s precision thresholds and integrating a risk-based approach.

Due to the special nature of the board direction, as well as the importance of this issue to multiple stakeholders, we are publishing the revised proposals as well as setting out the next steps for MSC’s governance bodies to consider them. 

Revised proposals on precision thresholds   

In the initial proposals, the level of independent coverage was used as a proxy for measuring the precision of catch estimates. This would have required all fisheries to have between 20 – 65% observer coverage to meet the best practice level. However, it was clear from stakeholder feedback that this would not be feasible for many fisheries to apply and could prohibit small-scale fisheries from accessing the MSC program. 

Through both the TAB working group and feedback received from our public consultation, we have revised the requirements for assessing the precision of catch estimates, which are detailed below.  We have also made a number of editorial changes to ensure the new requirements are clear and easier to read.  

The new proposal is summarised below. You can also read the revised requirements here

Evaluating the precision of catch estimates 

As a minimum requirement for meeting our Standard (SG60), all fisheries will need a monitoring system that is able to collect and provide catch information. They must also demonstrate that catches are being independently verified. This is to ensure accurate information on how the fishery interacts with other species and habitats.

Fisheries operating at best practice level (SG80) must have a monitoring system that is designed to increase the precision of catch estimates. Assessors will be required to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the monitoring system in order to judge how precisely the catch is being estimated. This approach is more accessible for fisheries to implement whilst delivering our intention of improving the quality of evidence being supplied by fisheries.

Fisheries must also demonstrate that they allow independent observation of catches. We have not defined a level of observation required for most fisheries. This permits levels to be set according to the fishing practices and species caught, which will help make sure our Standard remains accessible to fisheries of all sizes. 

However, fisheries that meet all of the following criteria will be required to have independent observation that covers at least 30% of their catches:

  • Managed by regional fisheries management authorities (RFMO)
  • Operating on the high seas
  • Unwanted catch that includes endangered, threatened and protected species and/or out-of-scope species (mammals, birds, amphibians and reptiles). 

If the RFMO has a level of coverage below 30%, this may be acceptable only if it allows for the precise estimation of catches and is based on credible and transparent scientific research. 

Fisheries that are likely to be affected by these requirements are tuna long-liners and purse-seiners. 

Fisheries with full coverage of independent observation will be considered to be operating at a state-of-the-art level (SG100). 

You can read our latest impact report to see how we developed the revised proposals. The report includes an analysis of feedback received from the public review. 

These proposals will be considered by the MSC’s governance bodies - the Stakeholder Advisory Council and Technical Advisory Board in May - before being considered by the MSC Board in June 2022. 


The proposed policies detailed below, relating to the accuracy and quality of information used in assessments, were shared with stakeholders in February 2022 and have not changed.

These proposed changes set out the MSC’s requirements on the quality of information that is needed to certify a fishery as sustainable and well-managed. They would give assessors detailed instructions on how to evaluate a fishery’s monitoring system in a consistent way. 

The accuracy of information used in an assessment - such a fishery’s catch profile, how and where it fishes, and whether it complies with management rules – would be evaluated in terms of its trueness and precision, indicating how well the information reflects the truth.

The evaluation of information quality would be focused on the type of data available, including how it was collected and provided to the assessment team. Assessors would be required to ask a series of questions designed to investigate possible bias in the information, such as whether it is up to date, if it is available for all parts of fishery’s operations, or if anyone providing it may have a conflict of interest.

A new framework would be introduced that would provide assessors with a systematic method for evaluating a fishery’s monitoring system. The MSC’s requirements on information would also be strengthened to make clearer the type and quality of information that is needed to certify a fishery.

We propose that, as a minimum, information must be able to provide a broad understanding of the issues. For example, an understanding of the extent of a fishery’s environmental impact, or its compliance with management rules. To achieve global best practice or beyond, the available information must be able to provide a high or very high degree of accuracy. 

Establishing best practice in Monitoring, Control and Surveillance

The proposals relating to monitoring, control and surveillance have not been amended since the public review.

Compliance must be rigorously evaluated in all assessments, and the proposed changes would clarify how this should be done to provide consistency in assessments. It would also use our new Evidence Requirement framework where appropriate under these proposals. Ensuring that systematic non-compliance is not evident within a fishery would become a minimum requirement for certification.

To do this, assessors would need to check all relevant enforcement agency records but, to deal with weaker jurisdictions, there is also a requirement that systems are strong enough to detect systematic non-compliance, should it exist. This covers various aspects of fishing operations, including pre-fishing and landing, but with a strong focus on at-sea infringements.

Through the Fisheries Standard Review, we are proposing to clarify scoring issues to make it simpler for assessors to score fisheries and distinguish between different compliance and enforcement requirements in our standards. This will ensure that fisheries are scored on individual compliance components, rather than being given an all-or-nothing rating that involves aspects of all compliance scoring issues. The existing performance indicator structure would be retained, but the scoring guideposts will be updated so that the definition of current best practice is much clearer in the requirements.

A new scoring issue would also be added for assessing fishers’ compliance with management rules. This will mean fisheries are assessed on the extent to which they are compliant separately from the information they provide to demonstrate compliance.

 

Download the proposed revised Standard, guidance and MSC Fisheries Toolbox below. Please note that the Fisheries Toolbox (February 2022) does not contain the updated evidence requirements. 

Impact of proposed revisions

Introduce new evidence requirements on the quality of information needed for scoring fisheries

Improving consistency in how fishery monitoring systems are evaluated would help ensure the MSC program is fair and transparent. Setting clearer evidence requirements would also avoid putting a fishery at a disadvantage for being more transparent than others regarding its impacts.

We expect that many fisheries will need to improve or develop monitoring programs to achieve the new evidence requirements. However, the new evidence requirements are not prescriptive on the monitoring methods that fisheries must use, as long as they can provide accurate information, and they allow for innovation in the future. This will help fisheries to adapt to meet the new requirements.

Download our impact assessment reports below, which detail the positive and negative impacts associated with the proposed evidence framework.

Fisheries Standard Review Impact Assessment Evidence requirements (May 2022)
Description: MSC Fisheries Standard Review - Impact assessment report - Evidence Requirements - May 2022

Language: English
Date of issue: 12 May 2022
MSC Fisheries Standard Review - Impact assessment - Evidence requirements (Nov 2021)
Description: MSC Fisheries Standard Review - Impact assessment report - Evidence requirements (Nov 2021)

Date of issue: 01 February 2022
MSC Fisheries Standard Review: Impact Assessment Report - Introducing requirements on the type and quality of evidence needed for scoring fisheries (April 2021)
Description: Summary of impact assessment for policy options on 'Introducing requirements on the type and quality of evidence needed for scoring fisheries', part of the Fisheries Standard Review project 'Ensuring effective fisheries management systems are in place'. (April 2021)

Language: English
Date of issue: 22 April 2021

The outcomes of this project are linked to several other projects in the review, including:

We will ensure that these evidence requirements take into account any other changes through these projects.

Establishing best practice in Monitoring, Control and Surveillance

Making assessments more rigorous would drive best practice by incentivising achievable improvements. Making assessments more consistent would create a more level playing field for fisheries seeking certification.

Read our impact assessment reports below detailing the positive and negative impacts associated with the proposed changes to compliance requirements.

MSC Fisheries Standard Review - Impact Assessment - Monitoring, control and surveillance (Oct 2021)
Description: MSC Fisheries Standard Review - Impact Assessment - Monitoring, control and surveillance (Oct 2021)

Language: English
Date of issue: 01 February 2022
MSC Fisheries Standard Review - Impact assessment report - Establishing best practice in monitoring, control and surveillance (Jan 2021)
Description: A summary of the impact assessment undertaken for alternative policy options developed for the 'Monitoring, control and surveillance' best practice work package of the 'Effective Fisheries Management' project in the Fisheries Standard Review.

Language: English
Date of issue: 05 February 2021

Next steps

Our Stakeholder Advisory Council and Technical Advisory Board will review the final proposals in May 2022. 

The MSC Board of Trustees will be asked to make the final decision to approve the new Standard in June 2022. 

If a decision is made to approve the Standard, the Board will confirm when the new Standard will be published.

Fisheries seeking certification for the first time will need to adhere to any new Standard six months after it is published.

MSC certified fisheries will have at least three years before they need to transition to the new Standard.

Sign up to our Fisheries Standard Review mailing list to receive updates about the review.

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.

Find out more about how we develop our standards>

See the sections below to find out more about the different inputs which contributed to the development of our proposed policies.

 


  • '{{item.Image.Title}}', {{item.Image.Artist}}, {{item.Image.Description}}