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.

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. 

Key outcomes

The new requirements include a framework that will enable assessors to evaluate the quality of information being used to certify a fishery as sustainable and well managed. 

  • Assessors must evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of a fishery’s monitoring system to determine the accuracy of the information that it provides. They must also consider the method of information collection, the extent of the fishery’s activity that is monitored and how the information has been reported and provided to the assessment team. 
  • The new requirements will ensure assessments are more consistent and will help to increase confidence in the assessment of a fishery’s impact on endangered, threaten and protected species, habitats and ecosystems, and whether it is compliant with regulations. 
  • The new requirements will ensure that levels of independent observation are realistic for all fisheries – in particular those operating on small vessels, which cannot easily carry observers – while also increasing the performance required of fisheries operating on the high seas, such as tuna long-liners and purse seiners. 
  • MSC certified fisheries will be required to have independent observation of their catches, however we recognise that fisheries may have different levels of observation in place to suit their local circumstances.
  • Due to the high level of  stakeholder interest in these requirements, the MSC’s Board of Trustees agreed that their implementation will be overseen by an independent Working Group composed of members of the MSC governance bodies, the Stakeholder Advisory Council and the Technical Advisory Board. The implementation will involve the development of detailed and high-quality guidance. The MSC will review the effectiveness of the new evidence requirements within two years. 

Further details on our new evidence requirements, and how these requirements were developed can be found below. 

Read our recent Board statement to find out more. 

Implementing the new standard

We intend to publish the new MSC Fisheries Standard (version 3.0) in 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. 

What are the new requirements?

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

We will 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 will 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.

As a minimum requirement for certification, 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. 

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 ensure 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 feasible 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 annual fishing operations:

  • 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. 

If the RFMO cannot demonstrate that the level of independent observation is backed by research, the fishery will need to comply with the requirement for at least 30% independent observation. 

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). 

Due to the high level of  stakeholder interest in these requirements, the MSC’s Board of Trustees agreed that their implementation will be overseen by an independent Working Group composed of members of the MSC governance bodies, the Stakeholder Advisory Council and the Technical Advisory Board. The implementation will involve the development of detailed and high-quality guidance. The MSC will review the effectiveness of the new evidence requirements within two years.  

Evaluating information quality

The changes clearly set out the MSC’s requirements on the quality of information that is needed to certify a fishery as sustainable and well-managed. They will 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 – will be evaluated in terms of its trueness and precision, indicating how well the information reflects the truth.

The evaluation of information quality will be focused on the type of data available, including how it was collected and provided to the assessment team. Assessors will 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.

Read our latest impact assessment report (May 2022) to see how we developed these requirements. The report includes an analysis of feedback received from the public review. 

We intend to publish the new MSC Fisheries Standard, and all associated program documents, in October 2022. 

Establishing best practice in Monitoring, Control and Surveillance

Compliance must be rigorously evaluated in all assessments, and the 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 will 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 will 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.

Impact of proposed revisions

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

Improving consistency in how fishery monitoring systems are evaluated will help ensure the MSC Program is fair and transparent. Setting clearer evidence requirements will 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 new 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

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

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.

Next steps

The working group set up by our Technical Advisory Board will continue to refine the evidence requirements between June 2022 and the publication of the Standard. 

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.

Sign up to our mailing list to receive updates about the roll out of the new Standard.

Developing our policies

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

 


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